The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal by Kelly Barnhill

Product Description
The beloved, Newbery Medal–winning classic is now in paperback! With more than a million copies sold, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a must-read for fans of timeless fantasy fables.

And coming in March 2022, an immersive new fantasy from Kelly Barnhill, The Ogress and the Orphans!

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. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the 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. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge—with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

From the Back Cover
“There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. Moonlight, however. That is a different story. Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.”


“Barnhill is a fantasist on the order of Neil Gaiman.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[ The Witch’s Boy] should open young readers’ eyes to something that is all around them in the very world we live in: the magic of words.”
—The New York Times

“This spellbinding fantasy begs for a cozy chair, a stash of Halloween candy and several hours of uninterrupted reading time.”
—The Washington Post

About the Author
Kelly Barnhill lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. She is the author of four novels, most recently The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal. She is also the winner of the World Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, a Nebula Award, and the PEN/USA literary prize. Visit her online at or on Twitter: @kellybarnhill.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


There is a witch in the woods. There has always been a witch.

Will you stop your fidgeting for once? My stars! I have never seen such a fidgety child.

No, sweetheart, I have not seen her. No one has. Not for ages. We’ve taken steps so that we will never see her.

Terrible steps.

Don’t make me say it. You already know, anyway.

Oh, I don’t know, darling. No one knows why she wants children. We don’t know why she insists that it must always be the very youngest among us. It’s not as though we could just askher. She hasn’t been seen. We make sure that she will not be seen.

Of course she exists. What a question! Look at the woods! So dangerous! Poisonous smoke and sink holes and boiling geysers and terrible dangers every which way. Do you think it is so by accident? Rubbish! It was the Witch, and if we don’t do as she says, what will become of us?

You really need me to explain it?

I’d rather not. She’ll kill us all or enslave us all, but in the end it doesn’t matter either way. We do our duty. We turn off our hearts. Nothing matters, child. You have to understand that.

Oh, hush now, don’t cry. It’s not as though the Council of Elders is coming for you, now is it. You’re far too old.

From our family?

Yes, dearest. Ever so long ago. Before you were born. He was a beautiful boy.

Now finish your supper and see to your chores. We’ll all be up early tomorrow. The Day of Sacrifice waits for no one, and we must all be present to thank the child who will save us for one more year.

Your brother? No. Of course I didn’t fight for him. How could I? If I had, the Witch would have killed us all and then where would we be? Sacrifice one or sacrifice all. That is the way of the world. We couldn’t change it if we tried.

Enough questions. Off with you. Fool child.


GRAND ELDER GHERLAND TOOK his time that morning. The Day of Sacrifice only came once a year, after all, and he liked to look his best during the sober procession to the cursed house, and during the somber retreat. He encouraged the other Elders to do the same. It was important to give the populace a show.

He carefully dabbed rouge on his sagging cheeks and lined his eyes with thick streaks of kohl. He checked his teeth in the mirror, ensuring they were free of debris or goop. He loved that mirror. It was the only one in the Protectorate. Nothing gave Gherland more pleasure than the possession of a thing that was unique unto him. He liked being special.

In truth, the Grand Elder had ever so many possessions that were unique in the Protectorate. It was one of the perks of the job.
The Protectorate—called the Cattail Kingdom by some and the City of Sorrows by others—was sandwiched between a treacherous forest on one side and an enormous bog on the other. It was from the bog where most people in the Protectorate drew their livelihoods. There was a future in bogwalking, mothers told their children. Not much of a future, you understand, but it was better than nothing. The bog was full of Zirin shoots in the spring and Zirin flowers in the summer and Zirin bulbs in the fall—in addition to a wide array of medicinal and borderline magical plants that could be harvested, prepared, treated, and sold to the traders from the other side of the forest, who in turn transported the fruits of the bog to the Free Cities, far away. The forest itself was terribly dangerous, and navigable only by the Road.

And the Elders owned the Road.

Which is to say that Grand Elder Gherland owned the Road, and the other Elders simply had their cut. The Elders owned the bog, too. And the orchards. And the houses. And the market squares. Even the garden plots.

This is why the families of the Protectorate made their shoes out of reeds. This is why, in lean times, they fed their children the thick, rich broth of the bog, hoping that the bog would make them strong.

This is why the Elders and their families grew big and strong and rosy-cheeked on beef and butter and beer.

There was a knock at the door.

“Enter,” Grand Elder Gherland mumbled as he adjusted the drape of his robe.

It was Antain. His nephew. An Elder-in-Training, but only because Gherland, in a moment of weakness, promised the ridiculous boy’s more ridiculous mother. But that was unkind. Antain was a nice enough young man, only thirteen. He was a hard worker and a quick study. He was good with numbers and clever with his hands and could build a comfortable bench for a tired Elder as quick as breathing. And despite himself, Gherland found himself developing an inexplicable, and growing, fondness for the boy.


Antain had big ideas. Grand notions. And questions. Gherland furrowed his brow. Antain was–how could he put it?– overly keen. If this kept up, he’d have to be dealt with, blood or no.

“Uncle Gherland!” Antain nearly bowled his uncle over with his insufferable enthusiasm.

“Calm yourself, boy!” the Elder snapped. “This is a solemn occasion!”

The boy calmed visibly, his doglike face tilted toward the ground. Gherland resisted the urge to pat him gently on the head. “I have been sent,” Antain continued in a soft voice, “to tell you that the other Elders are ready. And all the populace waits along the route. Everyone is accounted for.”

“Each one? There are no shirkers?”

“After last year, I doubt there ever will be shirkers again,” Antain said with a shudder.

“Pity.” Gherland checked his mirror again, touching up his rouge. He rather enjoyed teaching the occasional lesson to the citizens of the Protectorate. It clarified things. He tapped the sagging folds under his chin and frowned. “Well, nephew,” he said, with an artful swish of his robes, one that took him over a decade to perfect. “Let us be off. That baby isn’t going to sacrifice itself, after all.” And he flowed into the street with Antain stumbling at his heels, a perplexed expression drawn across his mouth.

NORMALLY, the Day of Sacrifice came and went with all the pomp and gravity that it ought. The children were given over without protest. Their numb families mourned in silence, with pots of stew and nourishing foods heaped into their kitchens and the comforting arms of neighbors circled around them to ease their bereavement.

Normally, no one broke the rules.

Top reviews from the United States
Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Reviewed in the United States on January 10, 2018
For the first time I hesitated rating a book and slept on it overnight before reviewing it. So many people love this book, and it’s won some awards, so I kept thinking, “What am I missing?” Is THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON whimsical? Absolutely. Are there some beautifully written parts? Most certainly. Does the story have a lovely moral? It does indeed. But it’s also overwritten, often nonsensical, with thinly drawn characters, and totally predictable. I also noticed even the people who liked it complained that it was slow in parts, especially in the middle, and in my opinion that’s because it’s a ten-page plot stretched to 400 pages through the use of flowery, redundant language. So why has it won so many awards? For the same reason summer blockbuster movies that are long on special effects and short on plot are so popular–people mistake sizzle for steak.

Please understand: I didn’t hate this book. I applaud its message and the occasional beauty of its writing. And I LOVE fantasy stories. But this should have been a short story. Not to mention that its basic plot–a witch raising a girl with special powers–has been done before, and done so much better. Have you read Terry Pratchett’s EQUAL RITES? If you haven’t, give yourself a treat and do so. It’s funny and fun, with amazing characters, and a well-drawn plot–and it was written long before THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON.

So would I recommend THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON? Sure, why not. It won’t hurt you, and there are some very nice parts. Yes, the animism is a bit overdone, but it is a fantasy after all, and animism seems to be a staple of “witch” books, harking back to their Druid ancestry. Besides, everyone’s taste is different–that’s what makes life fun!–and you could very well love it.
432 people found this helpful
Juli Hoffman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A story about love, and caring, and sacrifice, and magic.
Reviewed in the United States on December 3, 2016
Ten stars. Twenty stars. A hundred stars. I LOVED this story. I loved everything about it. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, from children to adults. I don’t usually reread books, but I know I will return to this story… See more
599 people found this helpful
Kevin Hasker
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A must read for girls 11-13 years old. I don’t recommend this for 8-10.
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2017
What a wonderful book. But you’ve already read the professional reviews and you don’t need me to tell you that.

What I can tell you is that my daughter is 8, and I can’t see her either benefiting from or wanting to read this book/have it read to her for at least another two years.

The main action of this story happens when a girl is twelve/thirteen, when most girls physically change into adults. This book is for those girls, and absolutely should be read by every one of them.

The book is interwoven with rising tension throughout the story. A sensitive young girl is likely to be too worried about what will happen to actually want to read it. In the end there is no physical violence, but emotional tension runs very high. By the time the confrontations happen you (the adult reader) are begging for them to happen. Begging for all the problems laid out to be resolved, but the young reader? Heck, my daughter freaked out the first time Moana went into the ocean (and only then). Like “The Witch’s Boy” (by same author) there are disturbing scenes–here especially early in the book. On an emotional level, fairly devastating. There are also things that she might just not be ready to understand until that age. For example the two main heroines are wrapped up in a pattern of lying to each other–for all the best reasons. As an adult I understand and learned from this. But for an 8 year old? Heck, it is probably too subtle for a normal 10 year old.

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