2019 Books in Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

There has been a odd phenomenon of late with me (really going back years). I still read quite a bit but I rarely post reviews.  There are lots of reasons for this which I won’t go into because I have blogged about the subject enough around here. But one of the things I want to work on in 2020 is focus.  ANd figure forcing myself to commit to something and working on putting my energies toward that is a good place to build focus.  So I had the idea of going back through the books I read in 2019 and blogging about each of them in a simple format.  This would allow me to get back in the practice of blogging/writing regularly and find out if such regularly blogging would revive this near-dead blog.  So find below the first attempt.

Book: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Format: Kindle

Owned or Borrowed: Own

Publishers description:

Cover of The Girl Who Drank the MoonEvery 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 . . .

Why I read it…

I have a habit of picking up popular young adult/middle grade/children’s books because they are often creative and interesting in ways that “adult” books are not.  Or they just grab my attention for some reason.  This was one such book.  I marked it To Read in 2016, started reading it in fall 2018 and finished early 2019.  I believe it was the first book I marked as “Read” in Goodreads.  The book was something of a hit, which I am guessing sparked my interest:

  • Winner of the 2017 Newbery Award
  • The New York Times Bestseller
  • An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2016
  • A New York Public Library Best Book of 2016
  • A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2016
  • An Amazon Top 20 Best Book of 2016
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2016
  • Named to Kirkus  Reviews’ Best Books of 2016
  • 2017 Booklist Youth Editors’ Choice

Why I liked it…

This is tricky when I don’t put down my thoughts at Goodread quickly.  The star system is not much help given how inconsistent I am in rating something 4 stars when I enjoyed it but it didn’t wow me but also when I really enjoyed it.

But I do recall that I struggled to get into it (hence, the months it took to finish) but really enjoyed it once I was able to get my rhythm and read in larger chunks.  The plot comes together and you are pulled forward; immersed that wonderful feeling of a fairy tale.

This New York Times review gets at what makes this type of story so enjoyable:

Barnhill’s language is lyrical and reminiscent of traditional fairy tales, but ­never childish or stereotypical. She writes impressively from a variety of points of view, not only those of Luna and Xan, but also of Sister Ignatia and the ­mother who has lost her mind. Magic abounds, both beautiful and dangerous. Origami birds fly, but their paper wings also slice and cut. Enchanted but enigmatic images appear on rocks, and there are seven-league boots so “black . . . they seemed to bend the light.”

Kirkus captures it well too:

Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces.

Last but not least, School Library Journal:

The swiftly paced, highly imaginative plot draws a myriad of threads together to form a web of characters, magic, and integrated lives. Spiritual overtones encompass much of the storytelling with love as the glue that holds it all together. VERDICT An expertly woven and enchanting offering for readers who love classic fairy tales.

To sum up: non-traditional fairy tale that feels like a classic.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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