Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Moon Over Manifest Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Moon Over Manifest Include:

Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, Moon Over Manifest follows twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker as she tries to make sense of her father’s past and her own present. Left to stay in Manifest, Kansas with Pastor Shady Howard, Abilene feels abandoned by her father. Learning about his past helps her understand him better and ultimately reunite with him. Set in both 1917 and 1936, the novel provides rich historical context along with a heartwarming emphasis on the importance of family and community. Young readers will also be exposed to a mixture of text formats, as Vanderpool weaves her story through multiple narrators, flashbacks, letters, and newspaper articles.

Moon Over Manifest Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Moon Over Manifest Character Map

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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

Moon Over Manifest Characters

  • Abilene Tucker
  • Shady
  • Miss Sadie
  • Lettie and Ruthanne
  • Sister Redempta
  • Gideon Tucker/Jinx
  • Ned Gillen
  • Arthur Devlin
  • Uncle Finn

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in Moon Over Manifest and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Years of Living in Manifest or Years of Story (1917, 1936, or both), Character Traits or Role in Manifest, What Challenges Does This Character Face or Role in Gideon's Life, and How Does Living in Manifest Change This Character or Connection to Abilene's Time in Manifest.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Literary Conflict in Moon Over Manifest

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Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on types of literary conflicts.

Having students create storyboards that identify different types of conflict strengthens analytical thinking about literary concepts. Have your students find examples of various types of literary conflicts and bring them to life in a storyboard. In each storyboard, students should provide a depiction of the conflict, such as a scene demonstrating man vs. society. Below the scene, have students explain the conflict and why it falls into its category.

Examples of Literary Conflict in Moon Over Manifest


The mine owner, Arthur Devlin, creates a conflict for many of the townspeople of Manifest, including Ned Gillen. Devlin works the men too hard, pays them poorly, and feeds ethnic prejudices. He leaves the miners disheartened and desperate.


Gideon is in conflict with himself when he blames himself for the deaths of those he loves. He believes that his is a “jinx” and doubts his value to his friends and daughter.


The Spanish Influenza that hits Manifest in 1918 is a conflict caused by nature. The humans do their best to fight the disease, but Manifest loses many of his residents to this deadly disease.


Many of the immigrants in Manifest feel restricted by society’s prejudices. Miss Sadie, in particular, feels the weight of prejudice. Because she does not want to bring shame and rejection on her son as a poor Hungarian immigrant, she allows him to be raised by a stranger as she watches sadly from a distance. The locals spread rumors about her and leave her to live in isolation.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in Moon Over Manifest.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify conflicts in Moon Over Manifest.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Moon Over Manifest Summary

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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example Moon Over Manifest Plot Diagram


Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker arrives in Manifest, Kansas to stay with Pastor Shady while her father, Gideon, goes off to work on the railroad.


The people of Manifest seem to carry secrets with them and won’t tell her much about her father’s past in Manifest. They seem to hint that her father might not be coming back for her.

Rising Action

As Abilene gets to know the people of Manifest, she finds more questions than answers. With her new friends Lettie and Ruthanne, she attempts to solve the mystery of the Rattler, a box of trinkets, and her father's disappearance. Miss Sadie, a strange Hungarian woman, tells her about two boys, Jinx and Ned, who lived in Manifest in 1917. As Abilene learns more of their story, she becomes caught up in the past, convinced that it will help her understand her present.


Miss Sadie's story ends when she reveals that Ned died fighting in WWI, causing a broken-hearted Jinx to run away from Manifest. All the hopes and dreams of the Manifest residents came crashing down with the death toll of the war and the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918.

Falling Action

Abilene's sleuthing causes the people of Manifest to open up about the past, bringing them healing. As they talk, the last of the book’s mysteries unravel. Abilene realizes that Miss Sadie is Ned's mother. She also learns that Jinx is her father and his fear of jinxing her, like he jinxed Ned, has caused him to leave. Abilene sends him a telegram saying that she is dying to lure him back.


Gideon returns to Manifest, and he and Abilene begin to put down roots. The townspeople come together again and decide to revive old friendships and traditions. Abilene, Gideon, and their neighbors hope to learn from the past and work toward a bright future.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Moon Over Manifest.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Historical Connections in Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest contains rich historical detail, spanning two decades of history through its parallel stories. A good way to enhance students’ reading experiences is to supplement the novel with historical background information. Students can then use storyboards to make connections between the novel and historical accounts. Suggested historical topics include the Great Depression, the homefront during WWI, and the immigrant experience in America.

The sample storyboard below shows text connections with the history of the Great Depression. For this activity, have students read through one or more of the pages linked below as part of their research. Then have them create a T-Chart storyboard to present historical facts on one side and Moon Over Manifest on the other. Historical facts can be presented in the form of photos, direct quotations from primary documents, or summarized research. To connect to the novel, students should use the storyboard graphics to depict a scene from the story that addresses the same historical topic.

Moon Over Manifest Historical Connections

American HistoryMoon Over Manifest
Little FoodDuring the Great Depression, many Americans struggled to get enough to eat. Children often had to work long days just to earn enough money to survive. Soup kitchens cropped up across the country. Lines for bread and other food handouts could stretch for blocks. Abilene and her friends are constantly hungry. Most days, Abilene gets pork and beans to eat, but she is happy to eat anything, including frog legs! Abilene, Lettie, and Ruthanne eagerly accept any food that is offered to them by others.
MigrantsAmericans migrated far and wide during the Great Depression. When they couldn't make a living where they were, they packed up and moved to a new region. Some people moved every few months when the seasonal jobs changed. Others joined the thousands of hobos who had no home at all and slept in forests, boxcars, and kind strangers' homes. Abilene and Gideon are migrants. They move from town to down, jumping off the next train in search of a new place to find work and something to eat. Abilene has never known a real home until she comes to Manifest.
ProhibitionFrom 1920-1933, the United States federal government enforced prohibition, which meant that citizens could not buy or sell alcohol. Some individual states passed laws that extended prohibition even longer. In Kansas, the sale and manufacture of alcohol was prohibited from 1881-1948. To get around the law, Americans made alcohol in illegal stills and sold it in secret bars, called speakeasies. When Abilene meets him in 1936, Shady runs a speakeasy from his home/church. Miss Sadie reveals that even in 1917, Shady was making his own alcohol and selling it illegally. When Jinx suggests that the townspeople make an alcoholic elixir to raise money, they fake the Spanish Flu in order to keep the sheriff out of town.
HopelessnessThe Great Depression lasted so long that many Americans began to lose hope. Lack of jobs and opportunity left many desperate just to survive the week. Dreams of a better future came crashing down. A sense of hopelessness pervades Manifest when Abilene arrives. Even the welcome sign seems to suggest that hope is lost. Although it used to read "Manifest: a town with a rich past and a bright future," the words "and a bright future" have been shot through with bullets.

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Moon Over Manifest Theme Exploration

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify one theme from the text and trace the way it is developed throughout the story. Students may find that plot events, characters traits, important quotations, and symbols might all help convey a theme. Selecting and depicting these elements can be good preparation for an essay on themes within the novel.

The example below shows a sample storyboard for an exploration of the theme of prejudice. As a town with a large immigrant population, Manifest is home to many kinds of prejudice in the early 1900s. World War I only increases the townspeople’s fear of outsiders. Throughout the book, these prejudices manifest themselves in both major and minor ways.

Other themes to consider for this activity:

  • Community
  • Hope/Perseverance
  • Friendship
  • Home and Belonging
  • The Power of Stories

Theme Exploration for Moon Over Manifest


The 1917 flashbacks begin with Jinx and Ned running into a KKK rally. The KKK is strong in Manifest because of its large immigrant population. The klan members object to the different races, nationalities, and religions of the immigrants.

At the fair, Lance Devlin brags about enlisting in the army. He mocks Ned for being too poor to enlist, then suggests that he might be an enemy spy since his ethnic heritage is unknown.

Many of the women in town are prejudiced against Miss Sadie due to her Hungarian heritage, accent, and clothing. They do not allow her to submit a square for the Victory Quilt that is to be signed by President Roosevelt.

Ned is taken away from his mother when they arrive in America. When Miss Sadie finally tracks him down years later, he has been adopted by an American family. Miss Sadie decides not to reveal her identity in order to spare him humiliation and and prejudice she experiences.

Arthur Devlin takes advantage of the immigrants' need for work by making them work long hours for low pay. He encourages tension between ethnic groups by refusing to let different nationalities work together. He hopes this will prevent them from working against him.

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Moon Over Manifest Symbol Square

Moon Over Manifest contains a number of symbols - some which Abilene must work out and others that the reader must interpret. Students will enjoy identifying symbols by using a storyboard to depict them and explain their significance. For a quick assignment, have students identify a single symbol and explain what it represents. For a more in-depth activity, ask students to present multiple symbols or motifs with their storyboards. The example storyboard discusses the symbolism behind Gideon’s compass. Other possible symbols and motifs include the following:


  • The Wiggle King fishing lure
  • The silver dollar
  • The tiny nesting doll
  • The jump rope Shady gives Abilene
  • Miss Sadie’s leg wound
  • The victory quilt vs. the friendship quilt
  • The Manifest town sign


  • Stories
  • Digging and planting
  • Medicine and healing (elixirs and herbs)

  • Moon Over Manifest Symbol Square

    Gideon’s Compass

    Gideon's compass is Abilene's most treasured possession. To her, it represents a sense of home and a connection to her father. Even though it's broken, she imagines that its chain stretches all the way from her pocket to Gideon's. To Gideon, the broken compass represents Ned's death and Gideon's own brokenness. When Ned died, Gideon lost direction in life. He left Manifest and had no real home for the next 19 years.

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    Parallel Stories

    Moon Over Manifest makes heavy use of parallel stories. A parallel story is a narrative structure in which the writer includes two or more separate plots linked by a common character and/or theme. Moon Over Manifest begins with Abilene as the protagonist in 1936 Manifest. As she explores the town’s past, Miss Sadie recounts lengthy flashbacks detailing the lives of Jinx and Ned Gillen in 1917-18. In these stories, Jinx is the protagonist. As the novel progresses, the flashbacks grow increasingly central to the story’s main plot and pacing. In fact, comparatively little action takes place in 1936, as Abilene’s main adventures consist of digging up the past. The two stories eventually come together, reaching the climax at the same point and sharing a resolution. The 1918 plotline is not resolved until Jinx (Gideon) returns to Manifest in 1936.

    Historical Background

    One of the Newbury Medal award winning historical fiction books, Moon Over Manifest contains references to events and realities from the early 1900s. Students may benefit from previewing some of the topics listed below before or during their reading of the novel.

    • The Great Depression
    • Prohibition, stills, and speakeasies
    • The Dust Bowl
    • The Spanish Flu
    • World War I
    • Immigration, xenophobia, and the KKK
    • Coal Mining in the midwest

    Essential Questions for Moon Over Manifest

    1. What does it mean to be at home somewhere?
    2. To what extent do our pasts shape our present?
    3. Why do people tell stories? What kind of stories do you tell?
    4. How can hope or lack of hope change a person or a community?
    5. What effect do the parallel plots have on this story?

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