Literary fantasy and winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal.
Recommended grade level: 5 and up
Pages: 388 (for ISBN 9781616205676)
Summary: An epic fantasy about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who must unlock the powerful magic buried deep inside her.
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 and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver 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 enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known. (Source)
Who will like this book?: It will take a fairly mature and sophisticated reader to appreciate the layers and lyrical language of this book. Fans of folklore and fairy tales will find many familiar elements. Give this to fantasy readers who recognize the value of a slower, weightier sort of story.
Who won’t like this book?: I wouldn’t recommend this to a reluctant reader, or to an impatient one. It’s the sort of book that would probably work best in a classroom or as a shared read with an adult who could get the kid thinking about what he/she reads.
Readalikes: Fans will likely enjoy Barnhill’s other books, particularly The Witch’s Boy. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (another Newbery winner) shares this book’s melancholy tone and magical literary bent.You might also try classic fantasy, such as The Chronicles of Narnia or Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. The New York Times Book Review compares is to Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz.