The Girl Who Drank The Moon is an award winning fantasy novel by Kelly Barnhill about a magical land and a young girl named Luna who is unaware of her growing powers from drinking moonlight as a baby. There is a delightful, diminutive dragon, a serious and steadfast swamp monster, and a warm-hearted witch who cares for Luna. There is also a town filled with sorrow, controlled by a conniving and wicked group of Elders and Sisters, as well as a brave young man who is intent on discovering the truth. Students of all ages will enjoy this beautifully told, thrilling, and magical journey with themes of kindness and cruelty, hope and despair, and the importance of love above all else.
The land called the Protectorate is clouded with sorrow and despair. Its inhabitants have been scared into submission and hopeless obedience by the idea of a witch who threatens their very existence. They are told by the "Elders" to sacrifice the village's youngest child once a year to appease the witch and sate her appetite for destruction. The Elders live in lavish comfort while the rest of the inhabitants of the Protectorate live in poverty. On the Day of Sacrifice, the Elders take the youngest baby and leave her at the edge of the woods where they say the witch will find her and kill her but leave the rest of the Protectorate in peace. The Elders do not believe this story themselves, instead believing that the baby is eventually devoured by wolves or starves to death. They use the story to keep the villagers compliant and hopeless.
The story begins with Grand Elder Gherland leading the procession for yet another Day of Sacrifice. In attendance is his young nephew, Antain, who is an Elder-in-training. Antain's mother hopes for him to achieve high ranks as an Elder and bring their family more wealth and status. Antain, on the other hand, is kind and inquisitive and prefers carpentry to leadership. He questions the ways of the Protectorate but is quickly silenced as no one is allowed to question the Elders. On this Day of Sacrifice, the mother of the youngest baby refuses to let her go. Adara, the mother, is wild eyed and desperate and defies the Elders climbing up onto the rafters of her small house with her baby to get away from them. Both mother and child have soulful dark eyes, wavy black hair and a crescent shaped birthmark on their foreheads. The Elders force the baby from Adara and lock her in a tower saying that she went "mad" from grief. They bring the baby to the edge of the woods and leave her for dead while the rest of the town remains silent, mournfully obedient. The villagers believe this is necessary or they will all perish. Antain is distraught and guilt-ridden, forever changed from the experience.
Meanwhile, the reader discovers that a witch does indeed come for the baby! Her name is Xan and for as long as she can remember, she has come to the edge of the woods once a year to rescue an abandoned baby. Every year, she takes the abandoned baby to the "Free Cities" where the baby is loved and cared for. The people of the Free Cities call the day "Star Child Day" as it is the day a Star Child comes to them to be adopted. These "Star Children" are beloved by the people of the Free Cities and grow up with no knowledge of their real parents as all are blissfully unaware of the village filled with sorrow on the other side of the woods.
On this day, Xan rescues the baby and notices the curious crescent shaped birthmark on her forehead. On the long journey to the Free Cities, Xan gives the baby starlight to drink as she usually does for the Star Children. However, on this occasion, Xan accidentally gives the baby moonlight to drink. Starlight "is enough to bless but not to enmagic. Moonlight, however. That is a different story. Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like." Seeing that the baby is now magical, Xan decides to keep and care for her, knowing that she will need special magical training. Xan calls the baby Luna and introduces her to the Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian, and the loyal Swamp Monster, Glerk. Xan, Fyrian, and Glerk raise Luna with love and care, but Xan is worried when Luna's magic begins to grow and get out of control. Xan places a spell on Luna so that the young girl won't hurt herself or others with her large stores of magic. The spell hides Luna's magic until her 13th birthday. Xan thinks this will give her enough time to teach Luna how to control it. However, the spell hides Luna's powers so well that she can't even hear the word magic without going into a trance. Thus, she is raised oblivious to her true powers.
Back in the Protectorate, Antain visits the "madwoman" in the tower. The tower is guarded by the Sisters of the Star and their malevolent leader Sister Ignatia. Antain has never forgiven himself for the day the Elders took Adara's baby away while he watched. In the tower, while trying to apologize, Antain sees that Adara has thousands of birds she has carefully folded out of paper. The birds come to life and scratch his face and produce deep scars. Adara herself seems surprised at her untamed magic. Antain's scars never heal and he is permanently disfigured. Much to the dismay of his ambitious mother, Antain leaves his work as an Elder-in-training, unable to continue on with their cruel mission, and instead becomes a successful carpenter. Antain is resigned to live his life alone as people generally recoil from his scarred face. That is until he is reunited with Ethyne, a childhood classmate. She was apprenticed to the Sisters of the Star but, like Antain, chose to leave them, unable to blindly follow their harsh and devious rules. Ethyne and Antain fall in love and get married. With their newfound love comes a newfound hope which is something rare in the Protectorate. Ethyne becomes pregnant and she and Antain realize that their baby will be the youngest in the Protectorate when the Day of Sacrifice arrives, ensuring it will be the one chosen for death.
As Luna grows older and her magic threatens to be released, the fog of sorrow and blind ignorance in the Protectorate also begins to crack. Antain and Ethyne are intent on killing the witch to end her tyranny and save their baby. The Elders are flummoxed at the prospect of their power being challenged. Xan's life begins to fade and she worries that Luna's power will be unearthed before she has the chance to teach her to control it. No one can remember where and how the sorrow in the Protectorate began. Will Adara, the madwoman, be reunited with her long lost daughter? Will Xan be able to help Luna control her moonlight magic? Will Antain and Ethyne be able to save their baby? Will the real witch be defeated and the people of the Protectorate saved? Students will enjoy being taken on this magical thrill ride of good vs. evil, hope vs. sorrow, and the magical power of love.
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