Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon - Kelly Barnhill

Summary: 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 acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: My kids’ elementary school librarian is awesome and also a book reviewer. Yes, they go together. Whenever I see her (which is quite often because she generously allows us to use her super cute library to hold PTA and parent meetings) she has some great suggestions for me, and great suggestions for my kids, too. Don’t you think it’s great when a librarian knows your kids enough to know what they would like? She is always in the know about new books coming out, and had read The Girl Who Drank the Moon before it was chosen for the Newbery Award this year. She kept telling me “They got it right” and then graciously lent me her copy, as well as copies of the Newbery Award Honor books, so watch for those reviews coming soon!

I think it’s so fun to see the variety that the Newbery Awards have. They really vary quite a bit, and the quality varies quite a bit, especially as you go further back. I’ve read lots of Newbery winners, as I’m sure you have, and I’d have to say that I personally believe that the quality has gotten better and better with time. Many of the first award winners couldn’t have held up to the competition of the winners nowadays, or even the honorable mentions. Competition has gotten really stiff in the JFic genre, and I, for one, have very much enjoyed what it has to offer.

I loved the fairytale nature of this book. I love a lot of the JFic books because of their ability to handle real life situations in a way that is honest and sensitive, but without the drama and heaviness of an adult novel. This book does that, but in more of a fairytale way. I loved the characters and their nuances. I also love JFic books because they often spell out their message, which I appreciate. I don’t always like to be guessing what’s supposed to be happening. Then again, I don’t like to be hit over the head with the message, either. Well-written JFic is able to strike a balance between letting the reader know what the message is while still not feeling heavy-handed or manipulative.

One thing that impressed me about The Girl Who Drank the Moon was the depth and nuance of the characters. They weren’t one-dimensional, and they weren’t all perfect. There were heroes and heroines who made wrong choices for the right reasons, and there were villains who also tried to do good things, even if they were not good in the end. Really, despite the fantastical nature of the story and the characters, they really were relatable. What genre allows you to appreciate and love a bog monster if not JFic? I loved that about it. Also, some of the characters are damaged and they aren’t made all better in the end, which I also appreciated. Not everyone is perfect and undamaged in real life and this book does a good job of addressing this.

I think this book’s strength was its allegorical nature. This is not a simply written book, and I would say that it probably demands quite a bit from its middle grade readers, but in a good way. It will challenge their reading skills because this isn’t a book with a few big words on each page, but it is interesting and captivating and they will enjoy and relate to the characters. There is some sadness and tragedy as children are stolen from families to be sacrificed to a witch, but I think this was taken to the edge and then stepped back when we find out about what happens to the children.

I highly recommend this book, not only if you’re collecting notches in your belt for Newbery Awards you’ve read, but also because it is an insightful book with strong characters and good writing.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: The children being taken from the families to be sacrificed is sad.

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