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Publisher's Summary

A young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon must unlock the dangerous magic buried deep inside her in this epic coming-of-age fairy tale from the highly acclaimed author of The Witch's Boy.

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 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. When Luna approaches her 13th 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.

The acclaimed author of The Witch's Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

©2016 Kelly Barnhill (P)2016 Recorded Books

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Extraordinary Listening Experience

Who was your favorite character and why?

Fyrian, the tiny dragon, because the narrator does such a fine job of creating his voice. But all of the characters are wonderful.

What about Christina Moore’s performance did you like?

She excells at capturing the different characters. I particularly enjoyed her hilarious portrayal of Fyrian, the dragon small enough to fit into Luna's pocket.

Any additional comments?

I am 75 years old and a retired college English professor. This book is intended for middle school readers, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. The narration is first rate and the story is filled with mythic themes.

118 of 122 people found this review helpful

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I listened to this on Audible and loved it! A cleverly written novel that enchanted me from the very beginning. This fantasy is the story of love helping overcome miscommunication. If you enjoyed Harry Potter, put this on your must read list!

44 of 47 people found this review helpful

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So glad this one won the Newberry!

I began the book as a hardcover, but became too busy to finish it. I thank the stars and the moon that I ended up finishing it on audio. The narrator was AMAZING! A tale to be shared with your children or alone in your car. The wonder, imaginative folktale, and surprise culmination of the several storylines will leave you bewitched!

57 of 62 people found this review helpful

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What a beautiful name, THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON. I was drawn to this the minute I read that. This had all the elements to make a good story, good characters, fairy tale universe and a writer with an imagination. Yet, I could not get myself that invested. I kept asking myself, why I was not more interested?

Lea, who has only reviewed one book, put it most elegantly. The story unfolds in chronological order, with no mystery, no conflict, no plot. It reads like a lot of telling. So and so did this and than did that, and so forth. Lea, you need to do more reviewing.

I will be interested in more of this author's work. This one just about had me, but didn't quite get me there.

77 of 86 people found this review helpful

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Swamp Poetry, Love Magic, Sorrow Eating and Change

"The weight of moonlight--sticky and sweet--gathered on her fingertips. It poured from her hands into her grandmother's mouth and shivered through her grandmother's body. The old woman's cheeks began to flush. The moonlight radiated through Luna's own skin, too, setting her bones aglow."

Kelly Barnhill writes a lot of that kind of sensual, emotional, and poetic fantasy in her YA fairy tale novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2016). As the book begins, a mother tells her child about the wicked Witch who lives in the forest eager to destroy the entire Protectorate (AKA the City of Sorrows) unless the people sacrifice their youngest child to her each year. The novel then depicts a "Day of Sacrifice" on which the mother of the current child goes mad with grief and rage when the Council of Elders show up to take her baby girl away. Interestingly, the Witch in question, Xan, has no idea why the people of the Protectorate keep abandoning their babies in the forest year after year. But she rescues them from death by exposure and finds them suitable families among the people of the Free Cities on the other side of the forest. This time, however, she falls in love with the baby with the starry black eyes, so she accidentally "enmagicks" the girl by letting her drink her fill of moonlight. Feeling responsible, Xan decides to raise the child as her own granddaughter, calling her Luna. In addition to grandmother Xan, Luna's new family consists of her grandfather, a patient and loving 4-armed Swamp Monster called Glerk who is a Bog, a Poet and, in a sense, the whole world, and her brother Fyrian, a "Perfectly Tiny Dragon" who thinks he's a "Simply Enormous Dragon" and has been in a cute state of arrested development for 500 years. It's a charming modern fairy tale family.

One conflict in the novel arises from infant Luna's inability to control her chaotic magic. Moreover, Xan's own magic is constantly flowing into Luna, leaving the old Witch increasingly drained and aged. Xan will have to do something with Luna and her power soon, but what? There are other conflicts. Not all Barnhill's characters are charming. Luna's biological mother, the madwoman in the Tower, is being imprisoned and studied for her damaged mind and memory by the Sisters of the Star (an order of female warrior scholars), and despite being denied paper, she magically creates paper birds that "massed in great murmurations, expanding and contracting." The leader of the Sisters, Sister Ignatia, savors other people's sorrow a bit too greedily, while Grand Elder Gherland wants to maintain the status quo a bit too greedily.

One of the strong points of the novel is its characters, who are compelling and possess interesting, gradually revealed back-stories (Xan's childhood, for example, was not easy. . . ). Barnhill also works into her fantasy strong themes about magic, memory, time, change, education, sorrow, hope, family, and love. And her rich language makes mundane things magical and magical things sublime, while her wit makes conversations funny. Her writing is a pleasure to read, as in her many--

--sensual descriptions:
"The child's scalp smelled of bread dough and clabbering milk."

--neat similes:
"She gave him a look as sharp as a blade, and he ran out of the room in a panicked rush, as though he were already bleeding."

--fun lists:
"Even when Luna was content, she still was not quiet. She hummed; she gurgled; she babbled; she screeched; she guffawed; she snorted; she yelled."

--moving moments:
"Luna's heart was pulled to her grandmother's heart. Was love a compass? Luna's mind was pulled to her grandmother's mind. Was knowledge a magnet?"

--humorous lines:
"I hope you will be able to make at least one person grovel today."

--wise lines:
"Trusting in invisible things makes them more powerful and wondrous."

--and even some neat swamp poetry by Glerk:
"Each sleeping tree
dreams green tree dreams;
the barren mountain
wakes in blossom."

The reader, Christina Moore, has a clear and seasoned American voice for the base narration and does a kind and crusty Xan, a deliberate and swampy Glerk, a convincing pre-teen and teen Luna, a scary Sister Ignatia, a funny crow, and so on. I loved her Fyrian, especially when he sings "Luna Luna Luna Luna" with atonal child fervor.

I did notice some flaws in the novel. First, Luna and her mother's moon-shaped forehead birthmarks are Special Character Overkill. Second, part of the potent movement of the novel is the growth of Luna from baby to teenager, but although Barnhill mentions facial and magical "eruptions" breaking out when Luna nears 13, and there is even a powerful volcano getting ready to blow, the novel avoids menstruation (unlike, say, Jane Yolen's fascinating exploration of that part of a girl's maturing process in "Words of Power" [1987]). Third, a few too many times a few too many characters explain or summarize what's been happening with the sacrificed and rescued babies and the Protectorate's cloud of sorrow etc. Fourth, Barnhill moves into climax mode a bit too early and stays there a bit too long. Fifth, despite Barnhill's pleasurable language and vision, she is writing too much in the current YA trend of short attention spans, manifesting itself in short sentences and short chapters, in her case 48 chapters in the nearly 400-page novel. Finally, for purposes of suspense, at a key point Barnhill makes Antain, a bright and moral young apprentice Elder who'd rather be a carpenter, too dense and unquestioning for his character.

Anyway, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an impressive fantasy: scary, funny, moving, and magical. Readers who like YA fantasy lacking romantic triangles but possessing plenty of witty and poetic writing and loveable characters and human villains should like the book. (I almost regret another strong point of the novel, that it seems to be a stand-alone work rather than the first in an interminable series.)

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Had Potential

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

At first, I was charmed. I admire the world, the premise, and the backstories behind these characters. However, only a few chapters in I came to realize that's all it was: backstory. Very little actually happens in the book itself, and the overall arc is more of a slight walk uphill. I never once felt excited. There was so much potential in the world-building itself, that I listened to the full thing in hopes of a worthwhile climax, but I should have trusted my instinct. The execution was fundamentally flawed. I ultimately left the book feeling disappointed.

What was most disappointing about Kelly Barnhill’s story?

There were no mysteries, no questions, no puzzles I wanted solved by the end of the story. All information was given up front in a chronological sequence of events. I knew things as they happened and wondered nothing.
In a better construction, we should have unfolded all these things in Luna's shoes, in flashbacks or discoveries she made, establishing her as a solid lead. This is not the case. Though I feel Luna was intended to be the main character, she doesn't even lead the plot until the tail end. It felt scattered. Everyone was a main character, and therefore no one was.
There was little conflict. I would have loved to jump ahead through 3/4 of the book to the point that Luna comes of age, and find this information alongside her. Sadly, it is like reading a biography in a fantasy setting. It's only slightly less boring than daily life.
The dialogue was unnatural and a little melodramatic. I can't imagine anyone speaking like the people in this book, and they all spoke the same. And while I appreciate Barnhill's flowery prose, it was at times laborious, and often interfered with the impact of certain events.

What does Christina Moore bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The most adorable tiny dragon voice that could possibly be imagined.
Other than that, I felt her performance helped to alleviate some of the unnatural dialogue and add personality that might not have been there otherwise.

Do you think The Girl Who Drank the Moon needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

A follow-up might be more exciting, considering this book read like a precursor to a more eventful story.

Any additional comments?

Overall, the story was very shallow, in terms of characters, arc, and dialogue. Its potential was there, but the execution left it unfortunately dull. I would like to see this story revisited, as more of a journey of self-discovery alongside Luna and the tiny dragon, Fyrian. I would like to see it start with Xan's first encounters with Luna, then jump ahead to Luna at 13 years, trying to piece together the mysteries without Xan around to enlighten her. She could have gone on a journey looking for her grandmother, and we could tag along wondering why there's a woman in a tower, why children are left at the edge of the woods every year, why Luna draws the pictures she does, and most importantly why she is only now discovering magic. I see so much that could have been, and that's why I feel so disappointed.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Truly magical

Simple, elegant, and wholly satisfying.
This book is for both children and those childlike enough to carry wonder in their hearts.

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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This was an absolutely fantastic book! I thoroughly enjoyed it cover to cover! The narration was phenomenal! She did all the voices so beautifully it really brought the book to life. I highly recommend this book!

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

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an unexpected Delight

I didn't know it at the time when I started this book that it would actually help me with the grief and the loss of my own mother it seems like a normal cute fairy story at the time but it became so much more

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Tom
  • AGUANGA, CA, United States
  • 08-31-17

Wonderful, Delightful, Engaging

I am an old guy, just about to turn 70. I've listened to hundreds of audiobooks and I never thought I'd like a Modern Fairytale type story. this one however took me by surprise. the entire feeling of the story is positive. the characters are mostly adorable and there's a great deal of humor throughout the story. I think the narrator is perfect for this kind of story and she did an excellent job. I highly recommend this to anyone if you just want to have a fun positive experience of a very well-written book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful