Reviews

She is here, she is here, she is here: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Barnhill, Kelly Regan. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Narrated by Christina Moore. Algonquin Young Readers/Recorded Books, 2016. 388 pages, 9 hours and 37 minutes. Hardcover $15.41, ISBN 978-1-61620-567-6; PLB $18.56, ISBN 978-1-53791-113-7

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!!!

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Each year, the Protectorate must sacrifice the youngest child to an evil witch who lurks in the woods. This sacrifice guarantees the Protectorate’s continued subsistence…a meager one, fed mainly by a mystical bog and often filled with suffering. The sacrifice is a necessary evil … or, at least, that’s what the Grand Elders want the people to think. There is no witch. Except, unbeknownst to the Elders, there is a witch, and she’s good. The witch, an old woman named Xan, rescues the baby every year and finds a new home for the child in the Free Cities, feeding the child starlight along the way. One year, a woman fights the Elders who come for her baby. The woman is imprisoned in the Sisters’ tower and diagnosed mad. The baby captures Xan’s heart, and one night by mistake, Xan feeds the child moonlight and enmagics her. Luna the baby is so magical that Xan must bind her magic until her thirteenth birthday. Will Luna learn how to use her magic? Is Fyrian a Perfectly Tiny dragon? Will the Protectorate ever be free of its sorrow? And why do Xan and her swamp monster Glerk remember only that “Sorrow is dangerous?”

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

UGH THIS BOOK. This book is pure magic. Christina Moore’s reading is delightful; as Barnhill has written a gem of a book that draws on oral tradition, Moore’s performance is a truly wonderful storytelling feat. Fyrian’s voice is a treat, and Glerk’s grumbling is great. This is absolutely a pick for readers who want to know more about defeating evil or coming of age. The story is extremely dark, but I think kids who already love dystopias are going to be fine with this one.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 07/01/16
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred, 09/01/16
Kirkus Reviews starred, 06/01/16

Newbery Medal, 2017
Publishers Weekly starred, 06/06/16
School Library Journal starred, 07/01/16
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred, 10/01/16

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Reviews

ARC Alert (with a book birthday today!) — The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Thank you to Disney/Hyperion and NetGalley for the ARC. Below is my honest review.

Bracken, Alexandra. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding. Disney/Hyperion, 2017. 362 pages. Hardcover $16.99, ISBN 978-1-48477-817-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? Appears to be — no spoilers, but the ending makes me think there’s a sequel!

Plot Summary:

Prosperity “Prosper” Oceanus Redding has had it up to here with his family’s nonsense. His evil grandmonster (grandmother, to most people) runs his hometown of Redhood, MA with an iron fist (it helps that she’s managed to remain mayor for the last ten years). His twin sister Prue (Prudence Fidelia Redding, thank you so much for the names, Pilgrim ancestors) has survived a weak heart and countless surgeries and emergencies, so for her, middle school is nothing to get worked up about. For Prosper, it’s torture. He isn’t successful, popular, or powerful — basically, he’s nothing like the rest of his family. A family dinner at the grandmonster’s house takes a turn for the sinister when Prosper’s parents call from out of the country demanding that Prosper grab his sister and run. A mysterious stranger crashes the party, rescues Prosper from his grandmother and the knife she’s trying to kill him with, and drags him to Salem, MA. The mysterious stranger is none other than Uncle Barnabas, a fellow Redding failure. He and his daughter Nell (an actual witch!) promise to save Prosper from both his grandmother and a much more sinister evil — an ancient demon by the name of Alastor who is currently residing inside of Prosper. How did the Reddings rise to power in the 1600s? Not through their work ethic! Rather, Alastor cut a deal with Honor Redding, the man from whom the town of Redhood got its name. After his rise to power, Honor enlisted a witch to help him get out of the deal, leaving Alastor to curse the family name and promise to return one day to destroy the Reddings once and for all. The time has nearly come, hence Prosper’s near-death at his grandmother’s get-together. Will Alastor succeed in destroying the Reddings, or will Prosper and his friends find a way to elude Alastor’s curse?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book has EVERYTHING. A snarky outsider narrator with a killer sense of humor? Check. A young witch whose first words readers encounter are lines from The Crucible? Check. A haunted house that is both tourist trap and actually haunted? CHECK! Family drama, mysteries, lies, and secrets? YOU GOT IT. A sassy demon? OF COURSE. A tiny black kitten that’s also a super powerful changeling who can fly? YES, FRIENDS! (Maybe I’m the only person who was looking for that? Okay.) Once I picked this one up, I couldn’t put it down. Prosper’s voice is intensely readable. This book delivers on creepiness, action, and humor. One scene can go from super creepy malefactor activities to an action-packed fight scene straight into Prosper’s deadpan reaction to the hoopla. The pace of the book is quick, but it never feels rushed. This is a great autumn read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would totally hand this one to students looking for a deliciously creepy, funny, and action-packed adventure. It feels like a good fit for fans of Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand, and the Jackaby series by William Ritter.

Grade Level: 3-7

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 08/01/17

Publishers Weekly starred 07/03/17

Reviews

Keep Calm and Creep On: The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

Fox, Janet S. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. Viking, 2016. 388 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-0-451-47633-3; PLB $13.86, ISBN 978-1-51818-650-9; TR $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-751713-5

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes … ish

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Steampunk (?)

Part of a series? Not at this time.

Plot Summary:

London is in the grips of the Blitz — it is World War II, and children are being sent away from London in order to remain safe from constant bombings. Safety is the foremost concern for the Bateson family; Mr. Bateson is a spy on a mission for MI6 — but before leaving, he secures three places at Rookskill Castle in Scotland for his children. There, the Lady Eleanor has opened an academy for children displaced by the bombings. Kat, the eldest Bateson, feels responsible for her younger siblings and does her best to remind them to “Keep Calm and Carry On” as they must leave their mother and Great-Aunt Margaret behind in London. Before seeing the children off, once-sharp Great-Aunt Margaret passes a family heirloom on to Kat. She gives the girl a châtelaine and explains that it is an extremely magical item that will help keep her safe. Kat, a lover of math, logic, and puzzles, is disturbed by this explanation, particularly since it just goes to show that Great-Aunt Margaret really is losing her marbles. 

Rookskill Castle is creepy from go, and Kat finds herself facing mystery and weirdness galore. Why is there a shortwave radio hidden in a secret room? What is Lady Eleanor trying to hide? And — most disturbing of all — why are so many secrets in the castle unexplainable by logic and common sense? Is there a spy at Rookskill Castle … or is there something much worse at hand?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book had a lot of potential. Historical fiction plus fantasy? SOLD! The premise was amazing. World War II plus creepy age-old magic sounds delicious. Unfortunately, the execution of the novel was a tiny bit disappointing. (This caught me by surprise given the starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.) The start of the novel is very strong, but not long after the Batesons arrive at Rookskill Castle, the story begins to meander. Quixotic episodes repeat with little impact on the plot, and major problems are set up that either fall by the wayside or are resolved in the blink of an eye. Every few pages we are reminded about how logical Kat is … to the point that you start to wonder when it will crop up again (hardly a mysterious thing can happen without the reader being reminded of Kat’s logic). Anachronisms also crop up throughout the text as well as dialectical issues that just don’t sound right. 

That said, however, the book does deliver on tone, so I would still recommend it to my readers looking for something creepy and set in a castle/past period. I also have to think that perhaps the book just didn’t speak to what I wanted from it, especially given its reception by major reviewing outlets.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would hand this book to anyone looking for a readalike for Coraline, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, or Elizabeth and Zenobia.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 01/01/16

Kirkus Reviews starred 12/15/15

Publishers Weekly starred 01/04/16

Reviews

Catch-up Post: The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

All I can say is, “YUCK!” and “When can I read more about Grunhilda?!”

Lucke creates a fantastically disgusting protagonist here, and I cannot recommend it enough to fans of gross-out humor, dark comedy, and snarky readers. It’s yucky, it’s funny, and it might make you feel a little green. (The detail on the background paper is TOO MUCH sometimes, and I mean that in the best way).

Genre:

  • Graphic novel

Major Things:

  • Witches
  • Magic
  • Gross!
  • Fitting in