The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (2017)
To say that The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a magical tale sounds a tad trite, but it’s true! A magical setting with magical characters, and even the very writing itself has a magical, dreamy quality to it.
We meet our heroine, Luna, as a baby, and follow her adventures through a childhood marked by her emerging propensity for powerful magic. Any one who’s raised a rambunctious toddler (I had twins!) can imagine the difficulties in raising a child with unpredictable magical powers in addition to the usual chaos of an inquisitive, active child.
Good job this particular child has an equally magical set of guardians to supervise her - a huge, multi-limbed bog monster, a surprisingly cute dragon, and a witch. Not a Hansel and Gretel kind of a witch, but a kindly one.
Baby Luna grows up into a teenager, and thus is no less troublesome, but she is full of love and affection. and has emerging, unusual gifts that she has no understanding of. Learning to accept her gifts, understanding that love and pain are always entwined, and discovering her true parentage are some of her challenges. Oh, and not forgetting that she alone can save the lives of every living human for miles around!
The language of this book is by turns sweet, sharp and funny. The story twists and turns, presenting surprising, imaginative, and sometimes disturbing images. Nothing is quite what it seems, and yet the age-old themes of love and truth are at the heart of this magical-realist story.
This book has been recommended for an 8-12 age group. Personally I think most readers under twelve might find it a difficult read. My twin girls would not have coped with the complexity of the language and experimental narration at middle-grade reading level. There are also a couple of frightening scenes, involving blood and small animals being killed, which may be upsetting for a young reader. But for older readers, including very grown-up ones, like me - it is a lyrical, poetic, entrancing story. And even at my age, I so want to live in a tree house with a pet baby dragon!