I used to enjoy fantasy, and then, I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it was too many textbooks to read in college. Maybe it was getting too practical and thinking I had more important things to do. But, whatever the reason, I left fantasy on the shelf.
This month, I decided to read a Newberry Medal winning book. The Newberry Medal was created in 1922 to honor and promote quality children’s literature. The award is given by the American Library Association, specifically the Association for Library Service to Children, which includes children’s librarians from schools and libraries.
Incidentally, a Newberry Medal winner is a category on our Adult Reaching Challenge. Since the challenge is meant to expand participants’ reading palates, I felt that a young adult fantasy novel would certainly expand mine. The book title that caught my eye was The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnill─a high fantasy novel.
The book draws you in quickly with an abandoned baby, a benevolent witch, and a whole village lost in fog of sorrow. Each year, a baby must be sacrificed, to save the village. Or so the story goes.
Luna is the helpless baby left in the woods to die for her people. But when Xan, the witch who carries her away, accidentally feeds the baby moonlight, she changes Luna’s destiny─and the destiny of Luna’s village─forever. The struggle escalates between good and evil, truth and deception, sorrow and hope.
I was especially struck with the theme of narratives and who controls them. The people inside the village (where babies are sacrificed) and the people outside this village, each have a distinct understanding of the world. Their respective understandings are informed by the stories that both groups believe and pass on to their children. Ethyne is a villager who fights for freedom and realizes the power of the stories we hear:
“A story can tell the truth, she knew, but a story can also lie. Stories can bend and twist and obfuscate. Controlling stories is power indeed. And who would benefit most from such a power?” (pg. 309)
It’s a timely reflection for our own times. What stories do we retell over and over that we never examine? What do we believe about people or events just because someone told us? I’m not talking about being cynical or questioning everything, but just about being receptive to the truth. For example, the Morning Book Club this month is exploring some of the narratives we rehearse about race by reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Stevenson’s story is no fantasy, but fantasy may give us permission to think about real stories in a new way.
Whether it’s book club, the reading challenge, or listening to an audiobook on your commute, I hope you’ll discover content that challenges your thinking and inspires your imagination.