The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Girl Who Drank the Moon Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Entrancing fantasy spun with magic stresses power of love.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 37 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduces sophisticated vocabulary, such as "undulating," "murmuration," "calcify," "novitiate," "desiccate," "obfuscate." Lots of fresh similes, metaphors, and verb choices, such as, "Her mother's magic was more like a jumble of trinkets left in a basket after a long journey -- bits and pieces knocking together" or "The Grand Elder steepled his fingers together."

Positive Messages

Strong spiritual messages: Love is more powerful than hate or greed. Revenge doesn't solve anything. Human connection is richer than power. Violence is "uncivilized. Reason, beauty, poetry, and excellent conversation" resolve disputes. "Some of the most wonderful things in the world are invisible. Trusting in invisible things make them more powerful."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Strong female role models: Xan carries abandoned children to good homes, adopts and cares for Luna, and heals those in need. Luna is physically strong and spirited, actively tries to save Xan, has "a mechanical mind," and studies botany and inventing. Ethyne leads the effort to capture the evil witch. Male role models: Gerk recites and writes poetry. Antain's a peaceable soul who combats wrongs.


Babies are taken from families on an annual Day of Sacrifice, and the citizens assume that they're left to die or killed by an evil witch. Brief mention of a torture chamber and "assassinry," the art of killing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (The Witch's Boy) is an expertly crafted fantasy with spiritual undertones, and it won the 2017 Newbery Medal. It has a strong female protagonist, Luna, described as having curly black hair and amber skin. Luna's taken from her family and saved by a kindhearted witch who lovingly raises her but accidentally imbues her with magical powers. Other members of Luna's adopted family are a frisky young dragon and a wise, poetry-loving bog monster. Multiple storylines come together in a dramatic climax espousing the power of love and nonviolence. A great choice for middle-grade fantasy lovers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySthomaskics July 25, 2018

Very good - warning: adoption triggers

This is an excellent book with narnia-scale gospel symbolism. As an adoptive mom, however, I suspect this could cause some serious feelings for children with ad... Continue reading
Parent Written bygrandmareader December 18, 2018

Fantasy Newbery Medal Book with Heavy and Violent Themes

This book is interesting and has a good flow but is based on the horrendous practice of infanticide where a yearly ritual is to leave a newborn baby in the fore... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCanDAmeChibi February 20, 2020

A Book-shaped Hole in the Universe

The plot was poor, and I had a hard time reading it with all the violent descriptions. I think that this book is a waste of valuable time.
Kid, 11 years old October 8, 2016

i really liked it!

It was really good although there is a little violence. I found the characters likeable and amusing. I loved the little dragon because he was energetic and si... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON is the story of Luna, taken as a baby from her family in the Protectorate as part of a cruel ritual designed to keep the populace fearful and compliant. Though the Elders circulate a story that an evil witch demands the annual sacrifice, they don't realize there's actually a good witch who saves and protects the babies. When Xan rescues Luna, she accidentally feeds her moonbeams that "enmagic" her, so she decides to adopt and raise Luna in a family that includes a dragon and a wise bog monster. Luna's magical powers prove to be unpredictable and unruly, so Xan casts a spell that cocoons the magic until her 13th birthday. Will Luna harness her magic successfully? This story is interwoven with stories from the Protectorate about an antagonist who feeds on the sorrow of others, Luna's mother who yearns for her lost daughter, and a brave couple who challenge the status quo.

Is it any good?

This fantasy, a brisk-paced mix of magic and witches set in an enchanted land shadowed by a rumbling volcano, has high stakes and multiple threads that bind together in a spiritually resonant climax. Luna, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, is a young girl "enmagicked" by moonlight and raised by a loving witch she knows as Grandmama. There are multiple characters -- one unexpectedly evil -- in this seamless story, and the values are solidly peace-loving and open-hearted. Where other fantasies might culminate in an extended, blood-soaked battle, this one has a satisfyingly thoughtful resolution.

Author Kelly Barnhill is a crisp writer with a lyrical flourish. She sprinkles in sophisticated language, inviting readers to stretch their vocabularies with words such as "undulating" and "murmuration." Her similes are strikingly fresh -- roads unwind "like great spools of yarn" -- and her verb choices vivid -- "The Grand Elder steepled his fingers together." It's an original fairy tale with the feel of a classic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fate of the evil characters in The Girl Who Drank the Moon. How does what happens to them compare with what happens to evildoers in other books you've read? Do you agree or disagree with the book's take on revenge?

  • What do the likable characters value? How about the unlikable ones? How can you tell by their choices or actions what they value?

  • Though the story is a fantasy with magic and witches, are there elements that correspond to your life? How can you relate it to your own circumstances or experiences?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales and magic

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