Reading Clare Vanderpool’s writing does nothing if not bridge gaps between reader and character, reader and setting, and especially reader and author. As I read Moon Over Manifest, the story ran on ahead of me, drawing my childhood out of my calloused feet as if daring it to a race. It makes you feel good without feeling patronized. It makes you drink in history—yours,
’s, Abilene ’, Kansas ’s—without choking on sentiment. America
But what I find to be the loveliest thing about Clare is her website. Moon Over Manifest won the 2011 Newbery award, which is fantastic, especially considering it was Clare’s debut novel. But clarevanderpool.com should win its own award for staying true to Clare’s heart, even after the book was published and the Newbery won. Reading it makes you feel like you’re part of her family, in part because she evidently forgets sometimes that people other than her family read it. She reminds you of her connection to you, her closeness, with every blog post. Just a few weeks ago, she wrote “2011 was a wonderful year but not only because of a special award. Other big events: Lucy got her braces off. Paul got his braces on. Luke crammed 80 high school kids in our garage for a dance and everyone survived. Grace's singing has not broken any windows... yet. (Lucy made me put that.)”
Clare’s work is part of her life, not its life’s blood. She has a husband and four children, as well as a dog. She grew up in a small town in
her whole life, and she says that it was that childhood that prompted her to write Kansas ’s story of wandering, of shifting. Clare says that she has always had a strong connection to the concept of place, and that, at some point she wondered “what would a ‘true place’ be for someone who has never lived anywhere for more than a few weeks or months at a time?” Moon Over Manifest is her response to that question. Abilene
Clare recently finished writing her next book, Navigating Early, that she says will come out next spring. I, for one, look forward to taking off my shoes, digging my feet into the dirt, and preparing for the next race.