The Girl Who Drank the Moon


Kelly Barnhill

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill grew up in Minneapolis and studied creative writing at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has held a variety of jobs throughout her life, including janitor, park ranger, bartender, and a middle and high school teacher. Her husband, Ted Barnhill, is an architect who designs sustainable houses, and the two have three children. Barnhill began writing short stories after the birth of her second child, and since then has had her stories published in a variety of collections and magazines. She’s also written a number of children’s novels and a series of nonfiction reference books for children, including Sewers and the Rats that Love Them and The Bloody Book of Blood. Her work has received numerous prizes; The Girl Who Drank the Moon won the 2017 Newbery Medal. Barnhill still lives in Minnesota, where she teaches writing to adults and children.
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Historical Context of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

In interviews, Barnhill has said that The Girl Who Drank the Moon was inspired in part by the media coverage following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, during which time she noticed that journalism in general was forced to reckon with internalized bias in reporting. Of special interest to her is the way that stories can be used to alter or manipulate what people think of as true, something that is also relevant to the rise and the growing role of social media in the 21st century. Though The Girl Who Drank the Moon was written before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Barnhill has also eluded to similarities between the role of stories her novel and the way that media in general, including social media, played into the outcome of this election.

Other Books Related to The Girl Who Drank the Moon

All of Barnhill’s young adult novels are fantastical like The Girl Who Drank the Moon. They include The Witch’s Boy, The Unlicensed Magician, and The Mostly True Story of Jack. While much darker, Lois Lowry’s Messenger features a similarly ominous forest and a teen who must save his village by discovering his own power. The Girl Who Drank the Moon focuses heavily on the importance and complexity of familial relationships, which is a common theme in other young adult novels such as Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello Universe and The Land of Forgotten Girls. Barnhill’s books have been praised for their strong female characters in particular. Other young adult or children’s novels with no-nonsense, self-sufficient female characters like Luna and Xan include Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series.
Key Facts about The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  • Full Title: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  • When Written: 2015
  • Where Written: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • When Published: 2016
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
  • Setting: The forest, the Protectorate, and the Free Cities surrounding the Bog
  • Climax: The volcano explodes, and Luna protects everyone using her magic and with the help of Xan and Adara.
  • Antagonist: Sister Ignatia/The Sorrow Eater, Grand Elder Gherland
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Girl Power. As a teen, Barnhill protested at a Honeywell plant in Minneapolis (Honeywell has contracts with the U.S. military). She protested with a group of nuns, of whom she was awe because they seemed to terrify the police officers who arrested them and Barnhill. She has said that this experience is one of the biggest influences on her female characters.

A Captive Audience. Barnhill often thinks and writes out loud—often with her family’s dog and guinea pig as her audience.