The John Newbery Medal is given out each year to honor the most outstanding book for children. The 2017 winner is The Girl Who Drank the Moon, written by Kelly Barnhill. The Newbery and other Youth Media Awards are given out each year by the American Library Association.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a fantasy book tells the tale of Luna, a young girl who is abandoned in the forest. A witch named Xan raises her, but she accidentally feeds Luna starlight, which gives her extraordinary power. As Luna grows older. she must find a way to unlock the magic inside of her.
Barnhill spoke to TFK on the day the award winners were announced. Read below to find out more about Barnill and her award-winning book.
TIME FOR KIDS:
What is The Girl Who Drank the Moon about?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story about a 500-year old witch, a poetry-quoting swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who suffers from delusions of grandeur, who all have to raise a magical baby. It’s also a story about growing up and that uncomfortable feeling that we get when we’re in the midst of growing up when we realize the world we thought we lived in is not the world as it is. It’s about a girl who takes control of her own sense of agency and starts to rewrite her own story and make her story much bigger than it was before.
What inspired you to write The Girl Who Drank the Moon?
I started this story because of Glerk, the poetry-quoting swamp monster. He’s the first thing that sort of popped into my head. I had this image of a four-armed, heavy-tailed poetry-quoting swamp monster who was holding a daisy and who was saying a poem. It’s the poem that actually appears in the very end of the book. [Glerk] was the center of the story and the rest of it kind of spun out around him.
How did you feel when you found out you won the Newbery Medal?
I was completely shocked. I did not expect it at all. They call you at five in the morning and it’s a very strange thing to be woken from a dead sleep and to answer the phone and you’re talking to a room full of incredibly cheerful librarians.
What does it mean to you to be awarded this honor?
It’s incredibly humbling and gratifying, but mostly it’s not so much winning the honor, but just talking to those librarians. They put so much work into this and it’s amazing to me just to be part of a group of people that honors children’s stories and recognizes the fact that we’re all built out of stories and those stories start in childhood. That for me is the best part — not so much winning the award, but just to be close to the people who are doing that work because it’s important work.
Are you working on any other books?
I’m working on a book called, Sugarhouse, which is a re-telling of the Hansel and Gretel story set in Minneapolis. You’ve got a very scary something that moves to a block and children start going missing. I wanted to write a book in which the diabetic kid saves the day, but nobody will believe him. This is my first time writing from the voice of a 12-year-old boy and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.