This lovely book is the fourth novel by award-winning Minnesota writer Kelly Barnhill. This is perhaps for a younger audience than Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which won the Newbery Award and the World Fantasy Award in 2017 (and which you should also read if you haven’t already). Both books are fantasies aimed at middle school, but have plenty of things for the older reader to think about.
The Ogress and the Orphans is a sweet story about the power of kindness, following the philosophy that gifts, given freely and without expectation, are returned in abundance. The orphans have nothing except their love for each other; the ogress has nothing but the lonely land where she has built her house and productive farm and garden. None of them are truly welcome in the town of Stone-in-the-Glen, where a stingy, egotistical mayor is deliberately sowing suspicion and discord in a place that used to be lovely.
The ogress is secretly sharing the bounty from her garden, leaving food on the townspeople’s doorsteps in the dead of night. The orphans are willing to share their love, fueled by intellect and ingenuity gained from the remnants of a semi-magical library. But the mayor is dangerous, and has magic of his own.