By Catherynne Valente
Published on May 10, 2011
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was a fun yet meaningful read. It taught great lessons, but in a way that felt light and entertaining. Catherynne M. Valente's vibrant descriptions and witty wordplay would make this book enjoyable for adults and children and anyone in between. Her use of symbolism in the names of Fairyland creatures and the different destinations and even September's favorite color make the story connect and flow. On almost every page there was personification which breathed life into Fairyland. September's knowledge of magical creatures based on stories she admired back home benefited her greatly. Despite this, she was always surprised when she came across something new.
September’s relationships are incredibly realistic, despite the fantasy theme of this book. Valente hits the nail on the head with her descriptions of human behavior and a hunger for control, even in children—especially in children.
This story is told by a narrator which gives the readers the gift of knowledge beyond that of the heroine, September. We got to follow the progress of a stray Key who happened to get separated from its owner. We also got explanations for things that September herself did not yet understand.
The end of the book was not a cliffhanger, but near the end we found out some news that implied the story was not ready to be done. This news was about our main character, September, and Saturday, a potential love interest for her. Although there wasn’t much (if any) romance in this tale, there was absolutely love. September shows her love for her mother in her regret and she shows her friends caring love. I suspect the next book will have September in a romantic “relationship,” if only a crush.
Overall, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was beautifully constructed. It reminded me of a cross between The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. There was adventure, curiosity, friendship, and creativity through the roof. I give this book five stars out of five and I can’t wait to read the next one.