The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on August 9, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade
Format: Hard Cover
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Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.
One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule--but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her--even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a beautifully written book by Kelly Barnhill. It has received numerous awards, including:
The 2017 Newbery Award
An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2016
A New York Public Library Best Book of 2016
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2016
An Amazon Top 20 Best Book of 2016
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2016
Named to KirkusReviews’ Best Books of 2016
2017 Booklist Youth Editors’ Choice
As someone who usually reads action-packed Young Adult Fantasy, the story moved slower than what I’m used to, but overall, it was well-paced. Barnhill’s storytelling was vibrant, so it was easy to imagine the characters and settings. The whimsy of the story made me feel like I was reading a fairy tale, but one with much more depth and sparkle than the classics.
I loved the fact that there was a wide range of characters, from ancient Xan to the young Luna and to Antain, a young adult. It gives the reader different perspectives from which to see the story, as well as the opportunity to form some compassion for the older generation. And the small dragon, Fyrian, provided just the right amount of comic relief. The only character that I didn’t feel wholly in tune with was Glerk, the monster. He liked to speak in riddles and they didn’t always make sense in the scheme of things.
For me, there was a large plot hole as to why the witch year-after-year rescued the babies and didn’t try harder to figure out why (and how to put a stop to it). Her history implies she would have the background knowledge to figure out the mystery. But the story was so beautifully written that I brushed it off as just one of the weak points that may make more sense to someone in the intended age range. After all, it wouldn’t have been the same story.
Parents will be happy to know that there is very little violence in this story. It has multiple moral lessons about dealing with sorrow and what makes different people come together to form a family. It also, of course, teaches the lesson of persevering over hardship.
I give the book 5 stars.