The Girl Who Drank the Moon
By Kelly Barnhill
400 pages; ages 10 – 14
Algonquin Young Readers, 2016 (2019 paperback)
Here's the scoop (from the back cover):
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest to keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is really kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest.
One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge with unpredictable consequences, just when it’s time for Xan to go collect another child. Meanwhile, a young man is determined to free his people by killing the witch. And a volcano, dormant for centuries, rumbles within the earth…
Of course, the story is so much more complex than one can blurb on a book jacket. Or back cover. And, say my writerly friends and colleagues, the story seems so much darker for adults than for children. It could be that we older folk have forgotten the portals to the world of magic, have forgotten the secret handshake and password.
like love about this book:
As an emerging fiction writer who can't nail my character to a sheet of lined notebook paper, I fell in love with Kelly Barnhill's cast of characters:
- A Grand Elder who is nothing more than a bully and a thug, scheming ways to consolidate and keep political power
- A reluctant Elder-in-Training who prefers carpentry to politics
- A witch who is short and squat and "a bit bulbous about the belly" - not only does she resemble people I know, but there's that fun bit of alliteration
- A swamp monster with attitude - who else would have the chutzpah to roll his eyes at a witch?
- A tiny dragon who believes it is Simply Enormous
- An abandoned baby, enmagicked by accident
I love the way folk tales of the bog-people are woven through the book. And the origin story: In the beginning there was only Bog.
I love that the book is filled with more than magic; there are ethical questions that make you pause and ponder.
And I love the way each chapter has a title. Some could have come from my own experience, like this one: "In Which a Map is Rather Useless".
Beyond the Book: Check out Barnhill's essay, in which she finds things she did not expect!
Always in the Middle , so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.