Moon over Manifest: the Ideology of Home in Children’s Literature

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Who would dare think the outcast and abandoned can find a home? Who could dream that one can love without being crushed under the weight of it? A miracle cure to heal the sick? Pah. What makes us think any of this could be true? And yet all of us, we participate in this myth, we create, perpetuate it (Vanderpool 304). Miss Sadie talks about the search for a home to Abilene Tucker, the 12-year-old protagonist in the 2011 Newbery Medal winner, Moon over Manifest (Vanderpool 207). Abilene doesn’t have a home and never has. Motherless, she is sent by her father, Gideon, to live with his old friend in Manifest, Kansas. Abilene has spent her childhood traveling the country with her father, looking for work during the Great Depression in America. Manifest holds the promise of a kind of home, as it is the place where most of Gideon’s stories take place. But Gideon is absent in the stories she hears in Manifest. Abilene and her father are the outcast and the abandoned. The promise of Manifest is a myth, dreary and worn out in real life, unlike the exciting place in Gideon’s stories. And yet, as Miss Sadie says, everyone hopes that this mythical home will somehow be real. It is apparent that the myth of home is what distinguishes children’s literature from adult novels (Wolf 18). Nodelman and Reimer write that while “the home/away/home pattern is the most common story line in children’s literature, adult fiction that deals with young people who leave home usually ends with the child choosing to stay away” (197). A pattern observed, called a postmodern metaplot, starts with the child being abandoned, rather than leaving home. Ultimately, the child’s journey ends with a modern ideal of the child leading the adults to a hopeful ending, a home. I will explore the changing roles of childhood and adulthood in children’s literature, while focusing on Moon Over Manifest. The myth of home in children’s literature thus reflects adult constructions of childhood. The emphasis on a...
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