“The Girl Who Drank The Moon” by Kelly Barnhill

The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Every year the members of the Proctectorate have taken an infant and left it in the woods as a sacrifice to the witch.  Unbeknownst to them, the witch, who name is Xan, has shepherded each baby to another town so that it can be raised by a loving family.  One year, however, Xan accidentally feeds a baby with moonlight, thereby enmagicking it.  She names the girl Luna and raises her by her side. As Luna’s powers develop, her past comes calling in the form of two women: one that has gone insane and another that feeds on sorrow and prowls with a tiger’s heart.

My Take:  This was an engrossing read and worthy of its winning the Newberry Medal.   Barnhill has the ability to create a fantasy world that is convincing but not indulgent.  Her writing moves the narrative along at a good clip while also taking the time to build the characters.  I particularly appreciated that so much of the story revolves around, in several forms, a mother’s attachment – or lack thereof -for her child.  You can tell that Barnhill enjoys exploring this subject from several different angles, ultimately arriving at a positive answer.

One Interesting Note About The Author:  On her website, Barnhill describes herself as a “former teacher, former bartender, former waitress, former activist, former park ranger, former secretary, former janitor and former church-guitar-player.”

“Doll Bones” by Holly Black

dollbonesThe Plot In 5 Sentences or Less:  Zach, Poppy, and Alice are friends that enjoy playing an imaginary game filled with pirates, mermaids, and treasure.  One of the most important parts of the game is “The Queen,”  an old porcelain doll that sits in Polly’s cupboard, whose real origins are unknown.  As the kids are now 12,  all 3 feel ambivalent about continuing to play this imaginary game in the face of criticism from their peers.  Their determination is rekindled, however, when a ghost visits Polly in her dreams, claiming that she was killed, turned into the china doll, and now longs only to be buried properly in her grave.  The 3 friends set out on a journey to bury the doll and put the ghost’s spirit to rest.

My Take:  Doll Bones novel is really about coming of age, facing the challenges of growing up, and grieving the loss of childhood.  Black captures the confusion and awkwardness of turning 12 and being unsure about what to leave behind as childish things.  I appreciated that the characters were clearly from underprivileged or blue collar families and that Black does not drive the point home too finely.  All 3 of the children have unsettled home lives, giving the reader the sense that the children’s quest is not just to bury the doll, but to help restore some sense of wholeness to their respective households.   Finally, I liked that the setting is in the industrial area of western Pennsylvania.  It lends context to the idea that these children really are journeying a through a blighted landscape.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  Holly Black is also the author of the Spiderwick Chronicles.  Find out more about her at her website.