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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. Algonquin Young Readers, Thomas Allen & Son. 2016. $25.95 ages 10 and up

"She closed her eyes and laughed. Antain stepped backward. He felt a shiver at the sound of her laugh, as though someone was slowly pouring a tin of cold water down his back. He looked up at the paper birds hanging from the ceiling. Strange, but all of them were suspended from what looked like strands of long, black, wavy hair."

The people of the Protectorate have been brainwashed to believe that the Day of the Sacrifice (the abandonment of the community's youngest baby) is the only way to keep themselves safe from the evil clutches of a fearsome witch who makes her home in the nearby forest. Indeed, a witch does live there. She is not in any way as she is portrayed by the elders.

In fact, she is appalled by the elders' actions, and cares for those abandoned babies by feeding them starlight and taking them to loving homes on the other side of the forest where they will be happily adopted. Captivated by the beauty in her dark eyes, her crescent moon birthmark, and her obvious delight in the world, Xan accidentally feeds this baby both starlight and moonlight.

"There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. But because the light travels such a long distance, the magic in it is fragile and diffused, stretched into the most delicate of threads. There is enough magic in starlight to content a baby and fills its belly, and in large enough quantities, starlight can awaken the best in that baby's heart and soul and mind. It is enough to bless, not to enmagic. Moonlight, however. That is a different story. Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like."

Xan cannot, in good conscience, find Luna a home with an unsuspecting family. So, she returns home to raise Luna along with the bog monster and dragon who are already part of her family. Luna is happy, and has no idea of the powerful magic that is hers. Xan tries to protect her with a spell meant to keep the magic in check until Luna is 13, and can better understand what it is and how to control it.

Always overwhelmed with sadness after the loss of another child each year, the people of the Protectorate feel the effects of Luna's emerging magic and they begin to change, which does not make the elders happy. Bereavement has held them captive and kept them controlled by their leaders. There are many twists and turns as the story unfolds; each strand of this somewhat complicated tale has love at its heart, and the author is able to weave those strands together in a way that is sure to satisfy readers and leave them wanting to know more about the characters they have come to know, love, and admire. There is, after all, magic involved.

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