The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Summary from Algonquin Young Readers website:
Every 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 and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver 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 enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
I fell in love with this book just based on the cover. Isn’t it gorgeous? Then I read it and decided it was the best tween book I’ve read in a long time. There are enchanting characters from young to old and some even magical. The plot, though a little slow at times, was beautifully told. The writing is very lyrical and at times thought provoking. The overlaying theme is love and family and what we choose to do to save those we love.
Luna and her grandmother, Xan, have a wonderful relationship. Xan is a truly complex adult character whose inner thoughts we are privy to at times. At times my heart broke for both her and Glerk, the swamp monster, and the decisions they had to make to keep Luna safe. I also really enjoyed the character of Antain, we spend time with him as both a child and an adult. I like how some of the things he saw and did as a child influenced the man he became in the end. Fyrian, the Simply Enormous Dragon, who is really the size of a bird, was also a great character. Although I will admit I couldn’t settle on a pronunciation of his name (does the ‘y’ say a long ‘i’ or ‘e’ or is it short?) I just wanted to tuck him in my pocket and take him home with me.
All in all a strong middle grade novel that kids who love fantasy with a fairy tale feel, will find exciting and delightful.