Review of The Ogress and the Orphans

The Ogress and the Orphans The Ogress and the Orphans
by Kelly Barnhill
Intermediate, Middle School    Algonquin    400 pp.    g
3/22    978-1-64375-074-3    $19.95
e-book ed.  978-1-64375-287-7    $15.95

Stone-in-the-Glen used to be a joyful, cooperative place, but a disastrous library fire ushers in an era of divisiveness and suspicion. In parallel story lines, we learn about the dire situation of an orphanage that has lost its community support and the plight of a gentle ogress who lives on the fringes of town, an outcast. At the center of the plot is an evil mayor—charismatic, manipulative, and powerful—who considers the line between truth and lies to be “fuzzy.” Offstage are dragons who are, in this world, not only benign but uniquely enlightened. A folksy, discursive first-person narrator (whose identity is the story’s final reveal) keeps the tone lighthearted, but there are some genuinely frightening scenes, such as a standoff between an angry mob and the brave orphan who tries to defuse the situation using logic and facts. She fails. Unbowed, she marshals her resources. Can a bitter, irrational, brainwashed populace be brought to the light of reason by individual kindness, libraries, a flock of supportive crows, the gift of delicious pastries, and a “serious girl with long dark braids”? In this story, Barnhill (Newbery winner for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, rev. 9/16) answers with an energetic affirmative, making it one of the more buoyant of the fictional responses to “the Dark Days of a Certain Administration” and other ills of our time.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.