By Ruthellen Corbett
BOOK REVIEW – THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON – BY KELLY BARNHILL
Can you imagine…living in a land called the Protectorate where a Council of wizened Elders rule …. where the fog never lifts … where the people live in fear of a witch to whom, every year, they sacrifice the youngest born child… a place where there is only one gated road out and that road is surrounded by a deep forest on one side and a belching bog on the other? Can you imagine?
Yes, and in that land, Once Upon a Time, a little girl with sparkling black eyes, dark-dancing curls and a birthmark in the shape of a crescent moon is born late in the year. Of course, her fate is to be the doomed child who is offered to the witch. Despite her mother’s screaming protests, and for which she is bound and brought to the tall tower, the child is solemnly carried to the soft mossy clearing in the forest and left for the Witch to do with whatever witches do with tiny infants. Alas.
“Everyone loves a good story and this is one. It makes you laugh and catch your breath simultaneously.”
But…. the witch who comes for the child is not one to be feared. She is a loving creature who rescues the babes, feeds them starlight, and delivers them to childless families on the other side of the forest. Thus on this night in Once Upon a Time, the witch Xan picks up the black-eyed baby girl, but mistakenly feeds her moonlight instead of starlight, and the child becomes “enmagicked.” Xan realizes her error and knows she must raise the child as her own. She names her Luna and introduces her to the rest of her family: a swamp monster who has a heart of gold and likes to recite poetry and a happy wee dragon who cannot fly but who thinks he is large and of course fly. All dragons fly, don’t they?
Thus the tale begins. Part fairytale, part dystopia, and always poetic, Kelly Barnhill’s novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon enchants the reader from the first page to the last. It is a page-turner, always prompting the listener to hear another page. And I said “listener” because it is meant to be read aloud; the language is pure music.
Everyone loves a good story and this is one. It makes you laugh and catch your breath simultaneously. It has multiple plots and themes, and with the skill of a good novelist, Ms. Barnhill gathers all the threads to an exciting and tightly woven conclusion. I highly recommend The Girl Who Drank the Moon to children of middle school age and beyond. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE REVIEWER – RUTHELLEN CORBETT
Ruthellen Corbett is a former English as a Second Language teacher and now enjoys “exploring art” with both children and adults in her docent status at the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut. She has four grandchildren and nothing delighted her more than reading to them when they were young.