Every year, the Protectorate holds the Day of Sacrifice where one baby is given to the evil witch in the woods in return for leaving the villagers in peace. This day causes great sorrow in the town as children are ripped from parents’ arms and a constant fog looms over the isolated and dreary residents. The Elders who rule the Protectorate do not believe that a witch exists and use the story and sacrifice as a way to manipulate and rule over the townspeople. Xan, an ancient but kind witch, does in fact live in the forest and rescues these abandoned babies, giving them new homes in the Free Cities. One baby, who Xan names Luna, accidentally becomes “enmagicked” when Xan feeds her from the moon instead of the stars. Xan decides to raise Luna with the help of a gentle and naïve dragon and large but softy swamp monster. Luna must learn how to use her magic as well as figure out who she really is just as the townspeople must discover the real witch and open their eyes to sunnier skies. With the threat from an active volcano, a tiger-hearted woman, a woman gone completely mad, attacking paper birds, and a father with a knife ready to kill in order to protect his baby, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a suspenseful, fantasy read for fourth to sixth graders. A 2017 Newbery Award winner along with a large list of honorable mentions, this title will not disappoint with its unique plot, well-developed and lovable characters, vivid and sometimes complex language, and building climax with everyone’s stories coming together. Have your tissues ready and expect your heart to radiate love—a constant theme in this story. My only complaint is that this title seems a bit lengthy for juvenile fiction at 400 pages. Not that page length should matter all that much, but I can see more reluctant and even busy readers struggling to pick up or get through some of these longer Newbery titles, including the equally as engaging Newbery Honor book, Echo.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)