Friday, August 5, 2016

Fantasy Pick: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers
386 pages
ISBN: 9781616205676

Editorial Reviews


Top Ten Fall 2016 Indie Next Pick
A Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror Pick (August issue)

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick . . . Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Rich with multiple plotlines that culminate in a suspenseful climax, characters of inspiring integrity, a world with elements of both whimsy and treachery, and prose that melds into poetry. A sure bet for anyone who enjoys a truly fantastic story.”—Booklist, starred review

“An expertly woven and enchanting offering for readers who love classic fairy tales.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Barnhill crafts another captivating fantasy, this time in the vein of Into the Woods . . . Barnhill delivers an escalating plot filled with foreshadowing, well-developed characters, and a fully realized setting, all highlighting her lyrical storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Kelly Barnhill is a skilled storyteller, and she crafts wonderfully imperfect characters with poetic prose, warmth and wit. Rather than a strident good and evil face-off, Barnhill's complex story of relative truth allows each character to make his or her own choices, even very questionable ones. The resiliency of the heroes may be partly because of magic, but also because of critical thinking, empathy, deep love and the strength of family in all its unconventional manifestations. The Girl Who Drank the Moon takes a probing look at social complexity and the high cost of secrets and lies, weaving multiple perspectives, past and present, into one cleverly unfolding fairy tale. The knots of miscommunication, habit and assumption that tangle Barnhill's characters may inspire readers to question the stories we're told. It takes brave and creative young people with their power to transform reality to clear the air and spread some light. Thoughtful and utterly spellbinding.”—Shelf Awareness

“A misunderstood witch, a poetry-spouting swamp monster, a tiny dragon with a simply enormous heart, a girl fed from moonlight and a town filled with tragic sadness all come together in this brilliant new novel from the author of Witch’s Boy. Fans of Maile Meloy, Alice Hoffman and Shannon Hale will devour this sad, funny, charming, clever stand-alone fantasy adventure.”—Angie Tally of The Country Bookshop for Pinestraw Magazine (Southern Pines, NC)

My review:
 Refreshing, magical, oftentimes comical, and full of adventure and heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon soars off the pages! Readers will be enrapt in a spell that will sing to them and wrap them up in a finely woven tapestry of  fantasy and magic. Few storytellers have the gift of so deftly arranging a fantasy or building a world so magical that readers want to live there, but Kelly Barnhill is the best at her craft. If you loved The Witch's Boy, you will love The Girl Who Drank the Moon even more!
Each year, the people of the Protectorate take a baby to a clearing in the forest and leave it as a sacrifice for  the witch. Xan, an old woman who lives with the poetic Swamp Monster and a tiny dragon with a huge heart, always rescues each  baby and travels through the forest to the other side where she will find a suitable family to adopt the baby. The baby will be loved and cherished and much better off than left in the woods to be eaten by wild animals.
One year, Xan is particularly tired, and after picking up the baby, finds herself stopping again and again to rest. As she rests, she feeds the baby goats' milk and then starlight. But
Xan makes a huge mistake. She was so tired and  must have dozed off and fed the baby moonlight. Everyone knows moonlight is dangerous magic.
Xan is happy to raise the child as her own. She knows of no one else who could understand and help the child learn to use her extraordinary gift. She names the girl Luna and insists that Glerk, the Swamp Monster and tiny dragon Fyrian, must learn to love the baby as much as she does. Each year Luna's magic intensifies and Xan begins to worry when and how it will "erupt." In order to quell the child's magic, Xan builds a spell that will keep the dangerous magic in check, at least for awhile. Glerk is worried. He knows that Luna needs to learn about her magic; he worries Xan will die before teaching Luna what she needs to know.
In the tower, a woman goes mad and begins folding paper birds that hold their own magic. Maps tell the way. A man with scars will read the maps and seek the witch. . A baby will be brought to the woods.

Luna's magic is about to be unleashed in a big way. Xan, Glerk and Fyrian will have to help Luna against powerful dark  magic in order to save the entire world.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an instant classic and will be a book that today's children will read to their children. Yes, it's that good! I expect this book to be awarded many state awards as well as national attention. I can see this book made into  movie magic as a  treat for the eyes and hearts.

Smart choices were made with cover art. The paper birds seem to glow against a backdrop of blue. The title is centered on the moon which commands half the cover. The child seems to be walking in a near trance following the magical birds as a small dragon hovers just near her face. The dragon also appears on the spine which will be easy to spot on a library shelf. Readers will choose the book after seeing the dragon. The design of the book is sheer delight.

Highly, highly recommended. I would recommend this book over all others this year! It is honestly the best book I've read in years.

Recommended grade 4-up. There are life lessons in these pages--important ones about love, friendship, bravery, family, and heart. Everyone 8-80 should read this one.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



  1. I am dying to read this book and share it with my students! Only heard great things about this fantastic book!

  2. Liked the Harry Potter-esque elements here! Can't wait to read it!

  3. What a fresh and interesting book. Would love to read it and then pass it on to my fiancé's girls (who love to read).

  4. I have heard so much about this book. I can't wait to read it! The kids will love it.
    Kathy Spielman
    Yorba Linda, CA

  5. I have heard so much about this book. I can't wait to read it! The kids will love it.
    Kathy Spielman
    Yorba Linda, CA

  6. I love fantasy with a twist. I'm a big Neil Gaimen fan. Am anxious to read this one and pass it on to students. AMSpike

  7. I have heard good reviews of this book. My students will love it.
    Brenda Young
    Oklahoma City, OK