Okay, Shmoopers, prepare yourselves. Your minds are about to be blown. You know how, when you hold a mirror up to another mirror, you see… yourself holding a mirror in the mirror? And also yourself holding a mirror in the mirror that you're holding? And also yourself holding a mirror in the mirror that you're holding in the mirror? And back and forth, and on and on, till you get a little dizzy, and decide to go back to doing your math homework?
Well, that's kind of the way that Clare Vanderpool set up her very first novel, Moon Over Manifest (2010). Except without the math homework.
So how is this work of historical fiction—centered around a 12-year-old girl growing up in the 1930s—like a mirror in a mirror (in a mirror in a mirror)? Brace yourselves: Moon Over Manifest tells a story about someone telling a story within that story to someone in the story who has to write a story… confused yet? Us too.
And there's more.
Remember those primary sources your teachers like to encourage you to read? You know, the real, historical documents from a time period, like letters and newspaper articles? Well, on top of all those stories within stories, Moon Over Manifest is chock full of primary sources. Oh, but they're all made up. Yep. Fictional primary sources. Fake authentic documents.
And what are we reading about in all those primary documents? More stories. Within the story that's within the story. We don't know about you, but we just felt a little bit of brain leak out of our ears.
It's no wonder that Moon Over Manifest is a Newbery Award winner and a Junior Library Guild Selection. It might take a lot of concentration, but the payoff is worth it. After all, aren't stories what literature is all about?
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Hmmm. Doesn't quite sound like something the FDA would approve, but you can bet Jinx would be in on it from the start. And gee willikers, gang—poor Abilene Tucker sure could've used a potion like that when she first came to town, don't you think? No place to call home, not much family to speak of, no real sense of where she came from or where she belongs… dagnabbit, it kind of stinks.
But think about it, carn sarn it! Isn't that sort of what all of us have to go through, as we get older? Figuring out who we are and where we belong? And how many times we can fit "gee willikers" into a paragraph without sounding weird? (It's once, by the way.)
We wish it were as easy as drinking a potion, but as you'll see, Abilene has quite a bit of work to do before she discovers the truth about her heritage and identity. Just like all the rest of us.