In the late 1930s, 12-year-old Abilene Tucker has spent much of her life riding the rails with her drifter dad. But suddenly, he decides to send her to live with a friend in Manifest, KS, where he grew up. She is disappointed that the town doesn't live up to her dad's descriptions, but she soon becomes involved with two classmates in solving the mystery of the spy, The Rattler. She also discovers a cigar box under the floorboards of her bedroom. It is full of mementos and clues which lead to the discovery of snippets of her dad's earlier life.
I particularly enjoyed the contrast between Abilene's more worldly point of view and the more insular viewpoints of her Manifest friends. The characters of Pastor and bootlegger Shady Howard, "Reporter About Town" Hattie Mae Harper, and diviner "Miss Sadie" are quirky enough to be believable as small-town characters. And through Hattie's newspaper and the mementos in the box, we uncover the story of the influence of World War I on the development of the people and the town.This year's Newbery Medal winner will appeal to all ages.