Magical Fantastical Animals 2016

Not imaginary creatures like mandrakes (Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard) or jinn (The Eye of Midnight) or chamelons (The Secrets of Solace), but rather animals that talk or communicate with humans or take on anthropomorphic characteristics:

Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park.
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan.

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt.
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi.
The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker.

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic by Ursula Vernon.
Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford.

The Tale of a No-Name Squirrel by Radhika Dhariwal.
The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long.
Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines by Charlotte Bennardo.

Rats and Mice
Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlman.
Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein.
Brightwood by Tania Unsworth.
The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder.
A Tail of Camelot (Mice of the Round Table #1) by Julie Leung.

The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan.
Foxheart by Claire LeGrand.
Making Mistakes on Purpose (Ms. Rapscott’s Girls) by Elise Primavera.
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz.
Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance.
The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Gale.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier.

Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel.
The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Colin Busby.

Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman.
This Is Not a Werewolf Story by Sandra Evans.
The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano.
Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den by Aimee Carter.
The Wolf’s Boy by Susan Beckhorn.

Ember Falls by S.D. Smith.

Stingray City by Ellen Prager.

Liberty by Darcy Pattison.

The Growly Books: Haven by Philip Ulrich.

The Bolds by Julian Clary.

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi.

Snakes and Other Reptiles
Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson.
Dragonbreath: the Frozen Menace by Ursula Vernon.

Dogs win, with wolves, and rats and mice coming in a tied second. If you or your child have your own animal avatar or interest, you just might be able to pick a recent book related to the animal of your choice.

Timeline of Middle Grade Fiction 2016

1242: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz. travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: Jeanne, a peasant girl who has visions, William, an oblate who is half-Saracen and half French, and Jacob, a Jewish boy with a gift for healing. These children may be saints, or they may be using evil magic to do wonders that will deceive the faithful. And the dog, Gwenforte, who once saved a child from a deadly serpent, may be resurrected, but can a dog really be a saint?

1606: Caravaggio: Signed in Blood by Mark Smith. For fifteen-year-old Beppo Ghirlandi, an indentured servant accused of murder, there is no one to turn to. The only person who will help him is the painter from across the piazza, the madman genius known as Caravaggio—-who, unfortunately, has serious troubles of his own.

1781: Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson. The third book in the Seeds of America Trilogy chronicles the adventures of Isabel and Curzon after the winter at Valley Forge.

*1812: The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford. Lucy Bluecrowne and Maxwell Ault must find the three pieces of a strange and arcane engine they believe can stop the endless war raging between their home country of England and Napoleon Bonaparte’s France. But they are in America, where the Americans have just declared war on the British, and the engine is a prize that all three countries will fight to own.

1816: Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire. In this steampunk alternate history sci-fi novel, the evil Sir Titus takes Edward’s parents hostage to help him find a lost dragon tomb—on Mars. The political situation in the background of the story involves the British Empire on Earth as they fight the Napoleonic Wars.

1825: A Buss From Lafayette by Dorothea Jensen. Clara’s town is excited because the famous Revolutionary War hero, General Lafayette, is about to visit their state during his farewell tour of America.

1840-1877: In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall. Jimmy McClean learns about his Lakota heritage from his grandfather and from stories about the hero Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse.

*1847: The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby. Jacob Tibbs, ship’s cat, chronicles the sometimes sad, sometimes exciting, adventures of the sailors aboard the Melissa Rae.

1866: Makoons by Louise Erdrich. Makoons, an Ojibwe boy, and his twin, Chickadee, travel with their family to the Great Plains of Dakota Territory. There they must learn to become buffalo hunters and once again help their people make a home in a new land.

c.1870: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. . Faith Sunderly is a proper Victorian young lady who has always been told, and who believes, that she is inferior in every way to men. Her father, the Reverend Sunderly is not only a cleric but also a world famous paleontologist. Faith, too is interested in science and in anything that will impress her father and get him to pay attention to her, but when she begins to learn more about her father’s research, she also finds herself enmeshed in a web of lies and deceit that won’t let go.

1871: Cinnamon Moon by Tess Hilmo. Three children displaced by fires (The Great Chicago Fire and another in Wisconsin on the same day) must find a way to survive and thrive.

*1887: A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket by Deborah Hopkinson. Eleven year old Rocco must survive on the streets of New York City after his Italian parents sell him to a padrone who uses him to make money as a street musician.

1892: The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove. Third book in the Mapmakers trilogy. Sophia Tims is coming home from a foreign Age, having risked her life in search of her missing parents. Now she is aboard ship, with a hard-earned, cryptic map that may help her find them at long last.

*1909: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katharine Woodfine. Mysteries abound in an early twentieth century London department store.

1910: Race to the South Pole by Kate Messner. Ranger of Time series. A time-traveling dog, Ranger, helps out during Captain Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica.

1920’s: Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter by Beth Fantaskey. 10 year old Isabel is obsessed with becoming a news reporter in 1920’s Chicago, where gangsters rule and the Tribune is the paper of record.

1929: The Eye of Midnight by Andrew Brumbach. On a stormy May day William and Maxine, cousins who hardly know each other, meet at the home of their mutual grandfather, Colonel Battersea. Soon after their arrival, Grandpa receives a secret telegram which takes the three of them to New York City. From there, the story rapidly becomes more and more frenzied, dangerous, and desperate as the children try to rescue Grandpa, find a lost package, decide whether or not to trust the courier, a girl named Nura, and work out their own new-found friendship.

1929: The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. Twelve-year-old Martha works as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. The other servants say Rose Sewell is crazy, but Martha believes that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message about Rose and about the other secrets in the Sewell mansion.

1934: Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg. Terpsichore’s father signs up for President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project, uprooting the family from Wisconsin to become pioneers in Alaska.

1939: You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carol Boston Weatherford. Verse novel about the struggles and achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black air training program during World War II.

1940: Once Was a Time by Leila Sales. Time travel isn’t possible, is it? Or can time travel be the secret weapon that will allow the Allies to win World War II? And can friendship last over time when one friend gets displaced and can’t return to her own time?

1940’s: Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz. 13-year-old Irish boy, Michael O’Shaunessey, becomes a spy in Nazi Germany.

1940’s: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepard. Winged horses live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. But only Emmaline can see them.

1940’s: The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox. During the Blitz, Katherine, Robbie and Amelie Bateson are sent north to a private school in Rookskill Castle in Scotland, a brooding place, haunted by dark magic from the past. But when some of their classmates disappear, Katherine has to find out what has happened to them.

1941: Bjorn’s Gift by Sandy Brehl. Sequel to Odin’s Promise by the same author. Mari, a young Norwegian girl, faces growing hardships and dangers in her small village in a western fjord during World War II.

1941: Aim by Joyce Moyer Hostetter. Fourteen-year-old Junior Bledsoe struggles with school and with anger—-at his father, his insufferable granddaddy, his neighbors, and himself—-as he desperately tries to understand himself and find his own aim in life.

*1942: Skating With the Statue of Liberty by Susan Lynn Meyer. Gustave, a twelve-year-old French Jewish boy, has made it to America at last. After escaping with his family from Nazi-occupied France, he no longer has to worry about being captured by the Germans. But life is not easy in America, either.

1942: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Then, new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks.

1942: Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban. Ten year old Manami, a Japanese American girl sent to an internment camp with her family, clings to the hope that somehow grandfather’s dog, Yujiin, will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again.

1942: The Bicycle Spy by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Marcel, a French boy, dreams of someday competing in the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race. But ever since Germany’s occupation of France began the race has been canceled. Now there are soldiers everywhere, and Marcel bicycle may be useful for more important things than winning a race.

1942: Brave Like My Brother by Marc Nobleman. An American soldier in WWII England shares his war experiences with his 10-year-old brother via letters.

1952: Making Friends With Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood. Azalea Ann Morgan leaves her home in Tyler Texas to stay with her injured Grandma and help out for the summer. Although Azalea has difficulty making new friends, she and Billy Wong have adventures together in the small town in Arkansas where Azalea’s grandma lives.

1969: Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock. A North Carolina town hires its first African-American teacher in 1969, and two girls–one black, one white–confront the prejudice that challenges their friendship.

1973: Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson. Ben Hogan Putter just lost his dad to cancer. Now Ben has a permanent lump in his throat that he believes is an actual golf ball, and his barbecue-loving, golf-loving daddy is speaking to him from beyond the grave, asking Ben to take his ashes to Augusta, Georgia, home of the most famous golf course in the world.

1975: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. If Raymie Clarke can just win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home.

*1978: It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. Zomorod Yusefzadeh is living in California with her Iranian family during the Iran hostage crisis. No wonder she wants to change her name to Cindy!

*1984: Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford. On his twelfth birthday, Al receives two gifts: a hamster and a letter from his deceased dad. The letter informs Al that it might be possible for him to use his dad’s time machine to go back in time and prevent his father’s death. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for Al to even get to the place where his dad’s time machine is waiting, not to mention the difficulty of manipulating past events to change the future.

1989: Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet. Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. Now, the family is headed for East Berlin, and Noah/Jonah mustn’t ask any questions.

2001: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. Four children living in different parts of the country are affected by the events of September 11, 2001.

2001: Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Actually set in 2016, this story is about three schoolchildren who are studying the events of 9/11 and who come to see its impact on their own lives.

2011: The Turn of the Tide by Roseanne Parry. Two cousins on opposite sides of the Pacific experience the 2011 tsunami.

A few notes about this list:

Some of the blurbs are taken from Amazon or from Goodreads and edited to fit my list.

My favorites of the ones I’ve read are *starred. No, I haven’t read all of these. Links are to Semicolon reviews of the books that I have read and reviewed.

Some of these are straight historical fiction, and others are time travel or other fantasy books set mostly in the time period indicated.

Finally, we need more (excellent!) books for middle grade readers set in ancient times and in the middle ages or at least before 1800. I know of lots of older books set in these time periods, but not many are being published now. Too much research required? Or just a lack of interest?

Saturday Review of Books: January 7, 2017

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

12, no, 13, Best Middle Grade Fantasy/Science Fiction Books of 2016

I read about 100 middle grade fiction books out of all the ones that were published in 2016. These are the ones, a baker’s dozen, that I thought were the best of the lot.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman.

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.

Time Traveling With a Hamster by Ross Welford.

The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore.

Edge of Extinction: The Ark Plan by Laura Martin.

Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers.

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart.

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard (Peter Nimble, #2) by Jonathan Auxier.

The Goblin’s Puzzle: The Adventures of a Boy With No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton.

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff.

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

12 Historical Fiction Books Set in the 18th Century

I hope to read these recommended books sometime this year:

Fire by Bill Bright and Jack Cavanaugh.

Storm by Bill Bright and Jack Cavanaugh. The Yale Revival of 1798-1800.

Spider in a Tree by Susan Stinson. About Jonathan Edwards and his family.

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott. A young English dreamer and soldier, Edward Waverley, is sent to Scotland in 1745, into the heart of the Jacobite uprising.

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale.

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 by Winston Graham.

Jeremy Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1790-1791 by Winston Graham.

Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793 by Winston Graham.

The Black Moon: A Novel of Cornwall, 1794-1795 by Winston Graham.

Thorn in My Heart (Lowlands of Scotland Series #1) by Liz Curtis Higgs. “In the autumn of 1788, amid the moors and glens of the Scottish Lowlands, two brothers and two sisters each embark on a painful journey of discovery.” (Amazon)

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson. Third and final book in the Seeds of America Trilogy.

Scandalmonger by William Safire. James Callender, was a Scots immigrant who became an American journalist in the 1790s before his suspicious death in 1804: he drowned in three feet of James River swamp water. Callender interacted with and influenced all the great names of the day: Aaron Burr, Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, and of course, Alexander Hamilton, and the late great Safire includes them all in his sweeping novel.

I’m also interested in Gore Vidal’s Burr, A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss, Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott, The Lost Ones by Norah Lofts (about Princess Caroline Matilda, younger sister of George III), Devil’s Cub and The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer, and Bonnie Prince Charlie by G.A. Henry—-if I can get the first twelve read, then maybe I’ll look at these.

Other suggestions?

12 Best Adult Fiction Books I Read in 2016

The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute.

The Martian by Andy Weir.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Frank Drum, son of a Methodist minister, looks back on his thirteenth summer in Bremen, Minnesota where he and his brother Jake experienced death, secrets, false accusations, prejudice and growing up.

The Ringed Castle by Dorothy DUnnett.

Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett. These are the final two books in the Lymond series about a ne’er do well younger brother to a Scottish lord. Lymond ranges across Europe and the Middle East in these books, set during the sixteenth century, as he pursues adventure and romance.

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. Pirates!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon. Dooley and Lace finally get married, not without comic mishaps and a few misunderstandings.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham. Half of the first Poldark season is contained in this first novel in the series.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

Talking to Strange Men by Ruth Rendell.

To round this list off to twelve, I’ll add a book that has been on my TBR list for a while, but that I have not yet read. However, Computer Guru Son says that one of the best books he read in 2016 was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It’s just been moved up to the top of my 2017 TBR list.

Links are to my reviews here at Semicolon.

12 Books from my Library to Read in 2017

Tales of Persia: Missionary Stories from Islamic Iran by William McElwee Miller. Mr. Miller spent forty-five years as a missionary to the Muslim people of Persia, now called Iran. These stories of God’s revealing of His son to people in Iran are written as devotional narratives to be read aloud to children, but I would like to read them myself.

Susan Creek by Douglas Wilson. “Set during The Great Awakening.” I am planning to have Jonathan Edwards as my historical mentor this year, so a book set during this time period makes sense.

John Treegate’s Musket by Leonard Wibberley.

Peter Treegate’s War by Leonard Wibberley.

Jamie Ireland, Freedom’s Champion by William N. McElrath.

Kidnapped: The Adventures of David Balfour by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr: their lives, their times, their duel by Anna Erskine Crouse. Because of Hamilton, the musical, of course.

A Burning & Shining Light: The Life & Ministry of David Brainerd by Denise C. Stubbs. Jonathan Edwards edited and compiled missionary David Brainerd’s diary along with biographical notes after the missionary’s death.

In Search of Honor by Donalynn Hess. French revolution.

In Mozart’s Shadow by Carolyn Meyer. Historical fiction about Mozart’s sister, Nannerl.

Evangeline and the Acadians by Robert Tallant. A Landmark history book.

The Slave Who Freed Haiti: The Story of Toussaint Louverture by Katherine Scherman. A Landmark history book.

The Prisoners of September by Leon Garfield. French revolution historical fiction.

12 Books on Christian Topics I Want to Read in 2017

These books from this list by Tony Reinke are all intriguing for one reason or another:

Exalting Jesus in Hebrews by Albert Mohler. CCEC (March, 2017). The Bible study group I’m in will be studying Hebrews this spring and summer, so this book comes at just the right time.

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared Wilson. (May, 2017).

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha. (January, 2017).

Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father by Thomas Kidd. (May, 2017).

Then, because I plan to make a study of the life and works of Jonathan Edwards in 2017, the following books are on my TBR list:

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by John Piper.

Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain H. Murray.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden.

God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper.

Of course, in addition to these, I hope I’ll be reading at least some of Edwards’ actual sermons and treatises.

And these are 2016 and even older titles that I didn’t get around to reading when they were new, but I want to read now:
None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (And Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin.

Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts by Trillia Newbell.

A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison.

Projects, Plans, and Themes for 2017

I love planning projects, making lists, and deciding on reading and study themes for a new year or semester. I used to satisfy this urge by making up homeschool plans and imposing them upon my unsuspecting and mostly unprotesting progeny. Now, I only have one homeschool student, and lest she bear the brunt of all my schemes and dreams, I will make this list for myself and for whomever would like to join me in these projects for 2017.

1. My spiritual and intellectual mentor for 2017 is Jonathan Edwards, a fascinating philosopher and pastor in Colonial America. Most people who know of Mr. Edwards have read nothing of his other than his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” However, he was a much more prolific writer and thinker than that one sermon could embody. In fact, he wrote more about the love of God than about His anger, although he would have insisted that both were compatible aspects of the One God. Anyway, I plan to read about Edwards, and I hope to read some of Edwards’ own writings, at least those that I can understand and assimilate, for myself.

2. In keeping with my Jonathan Edwards (b.1703, d.1758) project and with my and my children’s current fascination with all things Alexander Hamilton, I plan to read a lot of books (and maybe watch some movies) set in the 18th and early 19th centuries (more in a separate post). I hope to post here at Semicolon on Thursdays about something, probably a book, eighteenth or early nineteenth century related.

3. 2017 Friday Night Film Club. Films on Fridays, reviews and afterthoughts here at Semicolon on Monday mornings. I’ll write more about this project in a separate post.

4. Meriadoc Homeschool Library, of course. I have story time every other Wednesday morning, and then there’s just the project of keeping the books organized and checked in and out—and adding to the collection from time to time.

5. As far as Bible study is concerned, my Bible study group will be studying the book of Hebrews for the first six months of 2017. I hope to post about Hebrews and what God teaches me there once a week or so, maybe on Sundays. I also plan to continue Bible journaling, which for me involves notes written in one of my Bibles, not drawings, and the copy work I have been doing from the Psalms. I have been copying one Psalm or part of a Psalm two or three times a week to enclose in a letter to my son. He seems to appreciate it, and it does my soul good to write the Scriptures out.

6. Texas Tuesday. I plan to read a Texas-related book each Sunday or Monday, mostly children’s books, and then post about it on Tuesday mornings.

7. My word for 2017 is TRUST. I want to learn to trust God above all, but also how and when to trust others, how to rebuild trust when it has been betrayed, and how to regain the trust of others when I have failed them. I want to trust more and worry less, even when things look dark.

8. I’d like to try out at least one new recipe each week, but I’m usually more ambitious in the thinking than in the doing when it comes to cooking. If you have an excellent (easy and tasty) recipe for me to try this year, please leave a comment with link to the recipe or with the recipe itself. Bonus points if the dish is also healthy. We don’t do healthy around here much.

9. Daily exercise project. I need it, and I’m abysmally bad at it. Enough said.

10. I have several boxes of books to sell, mostly duplicates of books in my library, older children’s titles, ex-library, Landmark histories, Childhood of Famous Americans, and others. I hope to get those posted online, sold, and shipped in January or February. If anyone here at the blog is interested in seeing the list of books for sale when I get it made, leave me a comment or email me privately. (sherryDOTearlyATgmailDOTcom)

That plus family and church and reading wildly and widely ought to keep me busy and out of trouble, as my mother would say. What are you doing to stay out of trouble in 2017?

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill on writing The Girl Who Drank the Moon: “I started writing this book, finally, in a small purple notebook at four in the morning in an un-air-conditioned motel room in Costa Rica during my honeymoon.”

The Girl Who Drank the Moon may be much too witchy for some readers. It was a little too witchy for me. There’s a mostly good witch, and a bad witch, and a fellowship of Sisters who are really deluded and autocratic, or blind follower, witches, and a young girl who grows up to be a good witch under the tutelage of the first witch in this list. From all of that witchiness it may seem that the book is about witches, but it’s really about magic, and growing up, and child sacrifice, and adoptive families, and birth families, and extended families. In all of those “abouts” or themes, I thought the book was so good that I didn’t mind the witchiness too much, although I’d rather the word “magician” or something else were used.

The characters are Xan, the Witch in the Forest; and Glerk, the Swamp Monster; and Fyrian, the Perfectly Tiny Dragon; and Luna, the baby who is enmagicked by feeding on too much magical moonlight. The story tells of Luna’s childhood with her adoptive mother, Xan, deep in the forest, and of the harsh life of the villagers who live in the Protectorate on the edge of the forest. The villagers are governed by the dictatorial Council of Elders and by the Sisters of the Star, and they live lives of deprivation and poverty while the Elders and the Sisterhood benefit from the villagers’ fear of the forest witch and their sorrow over the many infants that have been sacrificed to appease the witch.

I could not help thinking of the many, many infants that have been sacrificed to Fear and to autocratic Old Men in our own country over the years since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973. How much sorrow has fed how many demons since that edict was handed down?

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is not an anti-abortion book, or any kind of Book With a Message. I’m not sure the author ever intended the analogy to be drawn between the babies sacrificed to the witch and the babies sacrificed to abortion. Nevertheless, I can’t be the only one who saw the underlying similarity. This book is a lovely story with beautiful writing and memorable characters.

Examples of the beautiful sentences that will draw and hold word-lovers:

“This is what allows her to wander the world, spreading her malevolence and sorrow. This is what allows her to elude capture. We have no power. Our grief is without remedy.”

“Her mother gathered the flowers of particular climbing vines and sapped them of their essences and combined them with honey that she pulled from the wild hives in the tallest trees. She would climb to the tops, as nimble as a spider, and then send the honeycombs down in baskets on ropes for Xan to catch. Xan was not allowed to taste. In theory. She would anyway. And her mother would climb down and kiss the honey from her little-girl lips.”

Lots more lovely writing is available in this book if like that sort of thing (I do).