Barnhill, Kelly

The Ogress and the Orphans

(2) 4-6 Stone-in-the-Glen used to be a joyful, cooperative place, but a disastrous library fire ushers in an era of divisiveness and suspicion. In parallel story lines, we learn about the dire situation of an orphanage that has lost its community support and the plight of a gentle ogress who lives on the fringes of town, an outcast. At the center of the plot is an evil mayor--charismatic, manipulative, and powerful--who considers the line between truth and lies to be "fuzzy." Offstage are dragons who are, in this world, not only benign but uniquely enlightened. A folksy, discursive first-person narrator (whose identity is the story's final reveal) keeps the tone lighthearted, but there are some genuinely frightening scenes, such as a standoff between an angry mob and the brave orphan who tries to defuse the situation using logic and facts. She fails. Unbowed, she marshals her resources. Can a bitter, irrational, brainwashed populace be brought to the light of reason by individual kindness, libraries, a flock of supportive crows, the gift of delicious pastries, and a "serious girl with long dark braids"? In this story, Barnhill (Newbery winner for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, rev. 9/16) answers with an energetic affirmative, making it one of the more buoyant of the fictional responses to "the Dark Days of a Certain Administration" and other ills of our time.


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