The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is one of the freshest stories I’ve read in years. If you love fairy tales, strong storytelling, lyrical writing and a bit of quirkiness, this is the book for you.
My top ten reasons to love The Girl Who Drank the Moon:
1. Wonderfully weird – It is a quirky blend of dark fantasy and humour, a super cool blend of ~Oooh~ and HA! It’s a story that tugs your heart-strings and tickles your sides. The lyrical prose soothes while the stark truths stab you in the heart. It’s disturbing, entertaining, heartwarming, intriguing, satisfying … and plain old good.
2. Adorable characters:
Luna – How can you not feel for this kid? She’s literally out of control, but she’s so lovable and feisty and unique. Nevertheless, steps must be taken to contain the child, and the effects are drastic and rather sad. It’s reminiscent of how kids today are medicated with psychotropic drugs like Ritalin. I know (professionally) such medications can be helpful and are (sometimes) necessary, but what’s lost? Are those losses quantifiable? Are they retrievable? Laying aside the big philosophical and ethical issues of sedating children, the real reason I was attracted to this book was the protagonist’s name. Luna! It’s such a pretty name. (Luna is my darling little doggie’s name. When I saw “Luna” in the book’s summary, I knew this was a book for me!)
- Fyrion, the stunted dragon who believes he’s enormous, is completely endearing. He had some of the funniest lines in the book. I liked him so much I want to name a future pet Fyrion, but it would have to be a reptile, and I can’t go there so…
- Xan the misunderstood old witch. What a great character. Generous, kind and principled—and she makes mistakes.
- Glerk, the swamp monster-poet and theologian is so steadfast, so stable.
Put the four together, sprinkle some Kelly Barnhill brand pixie dust, and KaPOW! Magic and delight on the pages.
3. Fantastic world building – “In the beginning was the bog … the bog is the poet and the poet is the bog …” Sounds silly here, but in the world of the book, the swamp monster’s origin story was perfect. Then there’s the wood and the bog and the volcano. The dreadful history of the Protectorate. The Sorrow Eater’s spectre. Magic that thrums and glows in Technicolor with flashes of silver. The shameful politics! So much to admire.
4. The lyrical writing – I noticed quite a few reviewers who tired of the writer’s repetition. It is true that the author’s makes great use of repetition, but it’s not arbitrary. The Mad Woman repeats, “She is here, she is here, she is here. ” It’s both a symptom of her madness and a device in the book. It was cleverly used, when her daughter picked up the phrase. To the nay-sayers, I suggest they “hear” the prose rather than just read it. It sounds sublime. Listen to the audiobook to experience the musicality of the prose. You may change your mind.
5. And speaking of the audiobook, the narration was pitch-perfect. Narrator Christina Moore gives a stupendous performance. It was beguiling and heart-rending and joyful. A lot of my attraction to Xan had to do with the narrator’s voice. There was something beguiling about Xan’s voice. I rarely pick audio books by the narrator, but I will definitely look for out for her.
6. The storytelling – intriguing, exciting, and ultimately satisfying.
7. The cover – Oh.my.bog. (a little in-text joke there, not a typo) The cover. It’s tantalising!
8. The words – Kelly Barnhill lavishes beautiful, challenging words on her young readers. (She says she had fifth graders in mind when she wrote it. I love that she extends rather than simplifies.) This book may make its readers into logophiles.
9. The fluid concept of family – This story portrays different types of families. I especially like the “family” of Xan, Fyrion, Glerk and Luna. The ending of story initiates a beautiful new family constellation (I’m treading carefully to avoid spoilers…). Kids in adoptive, kinship or foster homes may be able to relate and find encouragement in the variety of loving, positive arrangements the book portrays.
10. Uplifting themes – Love and hope triumph over malice and sorrow. More than ever before, in this shifty, grey age of fake news and imploding politics, we need stories of hope and love .
4.7 stars good. A few niggly little things made me scratch my head, but none was serious enough to mar my enjoyment of the book.
I have ordered a physical copy for my favourites shelf — that’s how good.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Read (and like) more of my reviews on Goodreads.
Flock of Geese, Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash
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