The most surprising book I’ve read all year
. . . is hands down this book. The Ogress and the Orphans, penned by Kelly Barnhill has been on my list since it came out.
I met Kelly a few years ago at a writing conference and decided upon meeting her that I would read The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and I’m so glad I did. The book deserves its accolades. I was so impressed with the writing style, the storytelling, just everything! It’s one on my very favorite reads and I reference it often.
“The world is filled with goodness, and our response should not be silence and suspicion. You have a responsibility to be grateful. You have a responsibility to do good as a result.”The Ogress and the Orphans
So… here we have a book that is written for the same middle grade audience and had the same charming appeal. I knew I wanted to read it, but had absolutely no idea what it was about. I went in blind.
Quick setting – This story is about a town that used to be a great town but now is a terrible town. The town had nice people that would do things for each other, but something change, some fear came in, gossip and suspicion that changed the townspeople to not nice people. Then the beloved library burned to the ground and no one rebuilt it. It’s like everyone in the town gave up and grew cold.
And an ogress lived there in the outskirts and she loved the town from where she could watch it.
And there was also an orphanage with clever kids and loving guardians.
So there is the baseline of the story. What a lovely baseline to start from. It sounds almost Grimm-ish. But then the book began to surprise me, as Barnhill’s reads often do to me, I was suddenly looking inwardly at my own soul.
Take the idea of kindness. This is a very strong part of the book, basic kindness. The ogress loves the town and shares what she has in. She bakes for everyone and gives of her garden to those who need it. She paints little pictures and gives each sweet a personality. She does it all in secret in the middle of the night while the town sleeps.
. . . but she is an ogress. Ogres are terrible and bad and mean, according to the towns people. So here I am thinking of my own judgment and prejudices.
Take the idea of propaganda. The townspeople are persuaded to believe the ogress is the cause of everything because of what their beloved mayor is telling them. The mayor is also not what he appears and creates signs and slander, and people follow him because of his charm and power. So here I thinking of news and media around me, and my own nation, and I’m thinking again, am I a part of those followers. Near the climax of the book I was completely gobsmacked at the revealing brilliance of what I was reading.
This is a story about an ogress.
She is not who you might think she is.
(But really, is anyone?)the Ogress and the Orphans
This passionate book for children had such an inspirational and creative turn to it, that I question if this book is for children at all. Would they understand the clever wordplay and spot on imagery displayed in these lovely prose? It’s like the movie Inside Out – the movie is different for different ages. Kids will like it and relate, but adults know hindsight where kids don’t, creating a different emotional experience. THAT’S EXACTLY THIS BOOK! It creates an experience for the reader that is very real and very recognizable.
The book is top notch brilliant.
It may be for kids, but I don’t believe it is. I couldn’t account for how a child feels about this book, they probably think it’s a sweet story. For me? I feel this book will change you. It changed me. I feel the kindness and the despair and the weariness and the magic, because of course it has magic! It’s written by Kelly Barnhill, who is magic in its purest form.
I finished this book a little bit or so ago and I couldn’t read anything right after. I needed to let this book simmer and seep into my bones. I am not yet recovered, but I at least, gave it a review. I couldn’t love this brave book more. It’s exactly my soul and what I have wanted to say for the longest time.
Amazing work, Kelly!
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