Halloween witches are all about potions and black cats, right?
Not Luna, the 12-year-old witch in Kelly Barnhill’s new novel, “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.”
As a baby, Luna is left as a yearly offering to an evil witch. But a good witch named Xan rescues her, just as she had rescued babies like her in the past. Instead of stinky potions, Xan feeds the babies starlight. That gives them strength while Xan looks for a safe home for them.
With Luna, though, Xan makes a big mistake. She accidentally feeds Luna moonlight, which fills the girl with magical powers. Luna has no idea how to use her powers, which grow stronger as she nears the age of 13. Xan must both teach and protect her from those who seek to destroy her.
Instead of a black cat, Luna has a tiny, bossy dragon named Fyrian. Her closest friend is a monster who likes poetry.
Barnhill said she has always been curious about witches. When she was a girl, her favorite costume included a “black dress, stripy tights and a completely rad witch hat,” she said from her home in Minnesota. Plus, “clicky shoes that sounded like magic.”
The characters were “powerful, sometimes bad-tempered ladies, who occasionally had to take matters into their own hands to get things done,” Barnhill said.
With this novel, though, she wanted to explore a different side of witches and magic. In addition to the good-hearted Luna and Xan, Barnhill created witches who used their magic to frighten and harm others.
It’s not the magic itself that matters, she said. “It’s the choices [each witch] makes about how to use it.”
People, too, have different talents and skills, she explained. What’s important is how we use those talents, over our whole lives, to help or hurt others.
Barnhill wasn’t a big reader or writer as a kid, but she loved to listen to her father read spooky fairy tales aloud. She also loved to tell stories about “fairies and gnomes, ogres, dragons and lake monsters” to her four younger siblings.
The tales and experiences from her childhood have influenced the stories she now writes as an adult.
The pet dragon in the book was something Barnhill wanted as a kid. She never got one, but she does have a mischievous new puppy.
“His personality is exactly like Fyrian’s,” Barnhill said. “It’s spooky how similar they are.”
One of Barnhill’s most popular books is “The Witch’s Boy.” In addition to the guy in the title, this adventure includes the young daughter of a robber king and a ring of magical stones.
Readers can also look forward to Barnhill’s “The Sugar House,” which will probably be published next year. It’s a modern retelling of “Hansel and Gretel,” which, of course, features a witch.
For kids who want to write their own stories, Barnhill suggests a helpful book that even has the word “magic” in the title: “Writing Magic” by Gail Carson Levine. With it, you can learn how to write realistic stories, animal stories or even your own witchy Halloween tale.
Quattlebaum is a children’s author and frequent writer for KidsPost.