The Ogress and the Orphans

by Kelly Barnhill (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

A new instant-classic fantasy about the power of generosity and love, and how a community suffers when they disappear, by Kelly Barnhill, winner of the Newbery Medal for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a New York Times bestseller.

Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the people to lose their library, their school, their park, and even their neighborliness. 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 children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town's problems are. Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House.

At the Mayor's suggestion, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans 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 neighbors see the real villain in their midst?

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
As exquisite as it is moving.


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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Before fires claimed its spaces of books and learning, Stone-in-the-Glen was a "lovely town... famous for its trees," its abundance, its close-knit community, and its ample library (where even the librarians' "shushes were lovely"). Following the fires, however, searing light, damaging floods, and anger and rumor become commonplace, and the cued-white human residents retreat behind locked doors and fences, goaded on by a self-interested, isolationist mayor who sows a campaign of suspicion and fear. At the impoverished but love-filled Orphan House, 15 children reside alongside two elderly sweethearts and a fantastical reading room, doing their best to stretch their meager resources. When a "careful and considerate" ogress takes up residence at the town's far edge, cultivating a garden and observing the town's need, she begins delivering nourishing baked goods and boxes of vegetables to the residents overnight. Employing a benevolent, omniscient narrator ("Listen," the voice urges) and a slowly unfurling, deliberately paced telling, Newbery Medalist Barnhill incorporates ancient stories, crow linguistics, and a history of dragonkind into an ambitious, fantastical sociopolitical allegory that asks keen questions about the nature of time, the import of community care, and what makes a neighbor. Ages 10-up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Mar.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"An exquisite fantasy tale ... Whether you've been counting the months, weeks and days or are brand-new to Barnhill's sharp, word-perfect prose and classical yet fresh storytelling, you're going to love this standalone fantasy. —BookPage, "2022 Preview: Most Anticipated Children's Books"

"The reader is immediately tossed into this fantasy ... The Mayor is a fantastic (though loathsome) villain, oozing charisma and evil in equal measures ... . 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 of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

"A delightful tale with dragons, ogres, and orphans that is sure to have readers turning pages to see what happens next. ... Characters from the town of Stone in the Glen are well developed and engaging. ... Well written and engaging, this title is sure to please readers of all ages as it teaches valuable lessons on acceptance." —Youth Services Book Review

"Readers of all ages will love it. 5/5 stars." —YA Books Central

Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. She is the author of six novels, including The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal. She is also the winner of the World Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, a Nebula Award, and the PEN/USA literary prize. Visit her online at or on Twitter: @kellybarnhill.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Algonquin Young Readers
Publication date
March 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV039220 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Values & Virtues
JUV028000 - Juvenile Fiction | Mysteries, Espionage, & Detective Stories
JUV013050 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Orphans & Foster Homes
JUV052000 - Juvenile Fiction | Monsters
Library of Congress categories
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred, 01/01/22

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