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Review of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

barnhill_girl who drank the moonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
Intermediate, Middle School    Algonquin    388 pp.
8/16    978-1-61620-567-6    $16.95

Every year, the people of the Protectorate steel themselves for the Day of Sacrifice, when the elders take the city’s youngest baby and leave it in the woods to appease the witch — a witch no one has seen, but whose reputation has become a means to control the populace. In fact, a witch does live in the forest, and she rescues and finds homes for the babies; she even adopts one, the particularly magical Luna, whom she brings home to live with her own family that already includes a beloved bog monster and a dragon. Meanwhile, the true and malevolent Witch of Sacrifice Day, hiding behind the identity of a respected person in the city, secretly feeds off the grief of the bereaved parents until, thanks to adolescent Luna’s emerging magic, the sorrow-burdened Protectorate begins to rebel. Barnhill’s fantasy has a slightly ungainly plot, with backstory, coincidence, insight-dumps, and shifting points of view maneuvering its hinges of logic into place. But in theme and emotion, it is focused: love — familial, maternal, 
filial, and friendly — is its engine and moral, with Luna’s connections with her adoptive grandmother and unknown birth mother a poignant force. With all story elements and characters interrelated through “infinite love” (the story’s theology), there’s plenty for readers to puzzle out here.

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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