EXCLUSIVE: Fox Animation has acquired the rights to acclaimed children’s novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon, an epic coming-of-age fairy tale written by Kelly Barnhill. Marc Haimes, who recently co-wrote the script for Laika and Focus Features’ Kubo and the Two Strings, has been set to adapt the script.    

Veteran animation director Carlos Saldanha, who directed Rio for Fox, and Maresa Pullman will produce through their BottleCap Productions banner. Darlene Caamano Loquet and Fox Animation president Vanessa Morrison are executives on the project.

It’s in development and is expected to be a hybrid live-action/animation, sure to whet the appetite of family audiences, if response to the book is anything to go by.

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon sees the people of a land called the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to a witch who lives in the forest in the hope that the sacrifice will prevent her from terrorizing their town. But the catch is, she’s a kind witch called Xan, who shares her home with a swamp monster named Glerk and a tiny dragon named Fyrian.

When the townspeople abandon the babies, Xan rescues them and re-homes them with loving families on the other side of the forest. As she travels through the forest with them, she nourishes them with starlight until one night she accidentally feeds a baby moonlight, which fills the child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides to keep this baby and name her Luna. But as the girl’s 13th birthday approaches, her magic begins to surface with potentially dangerous consequences.

The fourth book from The Witch’s Boy author Barnhill got rave reviews and has proved to be a big hit with middle-grade readers since it was published by Algonquin on August 9. It has scored a 4.26 on Goodreads, and Amazon named it Best Book of the Month for August. The New York Times described it “as exciting and layered as classics like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz.”

Haimes is no stranger to tackling the fantasy epic genre with flair. He co-wrote with Chris Butler the stop-motion adventure pic Kubo and the Two Strings, about a young Japanese boy who must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past. It features the voices of Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes and George Takei. Haimes also is adapting a remake of 2010 Norwegian hit Troll Hunters, with Neil Marshall directing, and is working on shape-shifter animation title Nimona.

Saldanha is sure to steer the project in the right direction too: Along with Rio, his credits include the Ice Age franchise and Robots.

Haimes is repped by WME, Grandview and Jackoway Tyerman. Barnhill and Saldana are both repped by WME.

Steven Malk from Writers House co-repped the book.