Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill)

Target Ages:  9-14

Genre:  Fantasy Middle Grade Fiction

Publisher 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. 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, 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 girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge--with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

Awards:   Newbery Award, Multiple Best Book Lists

From the first few lines, I was hooked!  The story begins with a woman telling her daughter about a witch who lives in the forest.  Every year the witch demands a sacrifice of the youngest child in the protectorate.  During this brief conversation, she drops other hints about the setting and plot. The next two chapters are through others’ perspectives—an elder and a boy in the village in one and the witch in the next. Each section intrigued me further.  I could not wait to read the next chapter. 

There are several well-developed characters readers will love: Xan—a maternal and helpful witch, Luna—an enmagicked girl, Glerk—a kindly swamp monster, Fyrian—a feisty dragon, Antain—a brave man of integrity, and Ethyne—a clever and kind girl. Luna will be especially captivate readers with her mischievous and curious nature. 

The multiple parallel storylines and periodic flashbacks create a multifaceted view of the plot and characters.  Eventually, the plot converges into a coherent and satisfying ending.  

Mythical characters and magic blend together with real world characters to create a fantasy world adventure with contemporary relevance.  The importance of forgiveness, love, sacrifice, devotion, and hope are emphasized.  One of the most memorable and powerful scenes is when two of the characters forgive another despite a lack of repentance on the part of the evildoer. 

Though I do not have a problem with fantasy literature taking liberties on the facts because, after all, it is fantasy, there is one part that bothered me.  In the confines of the story, the beginning of all life is the bog. The swamp monster is an immortal and wise being.  He quotes proverb-like lines from “the poet.”  All that is fine with me in the context of the narrative.  It crossed the line for me on a spiritual level though when it rewrote a section of the Book of John to reflect the truth of the story’s fiction.  Create your own version of truth all you want, but don’t delude a sacred book.

I highly recommend The Girl Who Drank the Moon.  Readers of all ages will find it thrilling and thought-provoking. 

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:

Visit Always in the Middle for more Middle Grade Recommendations.


  1. Sounds like a compelling fantasy, hard to find with so many out there. And the title is really intriguing too. Glad you mostly liked it.

  2. Love the cover and the story line makes it even more appealing. I've added it to my books to read soon. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. This is the third review of this book I've read and each one tells me it's worth the reading time. Thanks for your review.

  4. Love the multiple reviews. They both helped me better understand the story. Thanks so much for sharing! I want to read this book.

  5. When I saw you were also spotlighting this book, I had to come check it out! It's interesting that each of us felt a bit mixed about some elements, while overall are able to recommend the story. At any rate, I'm happy to have been your twin today, in featuring this book!

  6. This is getting a little love this week. I do want to read this one soon. Thanks for the reminder.


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