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The Ogress and the Orphans

Written by Kelly Barnhill

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The Ogress and the Orphans Review

Adventure Stories Books of the Month Crime / Mystery Fantasy / Magical Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 9+ readers Star Books

This charming, thought-provoking heroes and villains adventure is shot-through with a potent message about the need for kindness and community

April 2022 Book of the Month

Generosity over greed, kindness over cruelty, unity over division, and the power of books, Kelly Barnhill’s The Ogress and the Orphans is an exceptional allegorical adventure, with its guileful, all-knowing narrative voice (readers are instructed to “Listen”) and sparkling characters casting a captivating spell.

“Once upon a time, when it was a lovely town”, Stone-in-the-Glen used to glow with trust and kindness between neighbours, but not anymore. “It was said that the Library housed the heart of the town. And the mind of the town”, and so everything changed the day it burned down. Now the townsfolk have put their faith in the Mayor (apparently a dragon slayer), and lost their former munificence. And the only inhabitants aware of this cruel shift are the fifteen children of Orphan House, who were “studious and hard-working and kind. And they loved one another dearly, ever so much more than they loved themselves”.

When one of the orphans goes missing, the town turns on the Ogress, who is, in fact, also “hardworking and kind and generous. She also loved others more than she loved herself”. Indeed, the calm kindness and generosity of the Ogress sits in stark contrast to the suave, sweet-talking, self-serving Mayor, an exquisitely-crafted villain who might just bring a few politicians to mind, with the prejudicial scapegoating of the Ogress also striking a powerful chord. It falls to the orphans to expose the true villain of the piece, to change opinions of the Ogress, and to restore goodness to their town.

Alongside the thrilling, enchanting quest and message of kindness, the author shares messages about the power of books: “The ideas and knowledge contained inside their pages have mass and velocity and gravity. They bend both space and time. They have minds of their own. There is a power in a book that surpasses even that of a dragon”. What a wondrous, timely triumph — I adored every perfectly-placed word.

We were thrilled that Kelly joined The LoveReading LitFest to talk about the joy of storytelling.

You can find a preview of this event and sign up to become a member.

The LoveReading LitFest is a digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. 



Joanne Owen

The Ogress and the Orphans Synopsis

A new fantasy classic from the Newbery Medal winning and New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Drank The Moon.

Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the townsfolk to lose their library, their school, their park, and all sense of what it means to be generous, and kind. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever orphans of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town's problems are.

When one of the orphans goes missing from the Orphan House, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The orphans, though, know this can't be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen. But how can the orphans tell the story of the Ogress's goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbours see the real villain in their midst? The orphans have heard a whisper that they will 'save the day', but just how, they will have to find out.

The Ogress and the Orphans Press Reviews

'The story's told from a broadly omniscient perspective through slow, thoughtful pacing. Readers will make connections before the characters do-especially regarding the true nature of the villain-and they are given narrative assurance of a happy ending. This offers young audiences security as they grapple with nuanced, realistic portrayals of people who are neither all good nor all bad. It also gives them space to form their own opinions on the book's philosophical and thematic questions, including the refrain: 'The more you give, the more you have.' . . . Combines realistic empathy with fantastical elements; as exquisite as it is moving.' - Kirkus, starred review

'The reader is immediately tossed into this fantasy, relying on the narrator to explain how life used to be in the town to counter the grim description of how it is now. The Mayor is a fantastic (though loathsome) villain, oozing charisma and evil in equal measures, and in direct contrast is the ogress, who asks permission of the bees to take their honey and secretly shares her baking gifts with the town. . . the good versus evil purity of the story is effective in highlighting key points about the value of generosity and the perils of division. In a thoughtful and vulnerable author's note, Barnhill mentions she was so disheartened by the past handful of years she was uncertain if she would ever publish a book again. It is fortunate that her tinkering with fairy tales and fables helped open a path to this novel that champions kindness in a very dark world.' - Bulletin, starred review

'Barnhill's gift for storytelling immediately draws readers into this character-driven tale where dragons lurk, crows prove great friends, and an unusual narrator relays events with a unique perspective. These fairy-tale trappings cloak modern lessons and timeless ideals that readers will do well to take to heart, no matter their age.' - Booklist, starred review

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781800783027
Publication date: 08/03/2022
Publisher: Piccadilly Press an imprint of Templar Publishing
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781800783027
Publication date: 8th March 2022
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Publisher: Piccadilly Press an imprint of Templar Publishing
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 400 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 9+ readers
Genres: Adventure Stories, Crime / Mystery, Fantasy / Magical
Recommendations: Books of the Month, Star Books
Collections: Brilliant Children's Books to Read this Summer,

About Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. She is the author of four novels, including The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the Newbery Medal. for the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Witch's Boy received four starred reviews and was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards. She is also the winner of a World Fantasy Award and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She has also been a finalist for the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award, the SFWA Andre Norton Award, and the PEN/USA literary prize.  ...

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