Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente




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.

Imagine Wonderland, full of all the creepy, twisted magic we all know and love. Now think of it turned sideways, backwards, and upside down all at once. That’s the best way I can think to describe this book. While it might looks like just a simple Middle Grade fantasy on the outside, the inside is complete and utterly complicated nonsense. I should’ve guessed from the ridiculously long title, but never suspected, leading to an unexpected and unforgettable journey!

Catherynne M. Valente takes the reader on an unimaginable journey through Fairyland, the most strange and complicated place you’re likely to encounter in the Middle Grade genre. It’s a place where everything is immensely different for all we know of this world. So you can imagine the shock that comes upon September when a little green man riding a leopard drops her into this strange, new environment. She feels lost and alone, but manages to make some friends along the way.

My favorite part of the whole story were the characters. They weren’t flat, unoriginal cardboard cut-outs like we see all too frequently in books for young readers. They were 3-dimensional; so much so that they felt like they could literally jump off the page. They were as realistic as you would think a fairy tale character to be. I especially enjoyed and the vile Marquess, and A through L, the Wyverary.

One thing I definitely wish had been different is that it had been marketed as YA, with  September being several years old. Not that I didn’t love September, but she already seemed mature beyond her years, and then there wouldn’t be 8 year olds struggling through and almost giving up due to it’s complexity. I couldn’t even understand what was happening half the time! And if it had been marketed as YA, the little traces of romance that were present could’ve been expanded upon as well, and I know that’s something I would’ve enjoyed.

Nevertheless, this was a wholly enjoyable read that I found surprising, but still with a warm familiarity to it that will welcome readers in.



  1. Just stopping by to say thank you for signing up for the 2013 Standalone Reading Challenge and to wish you luck!

    I love your social media icons!


    1. You're welcome! I'm excited to discover some great new books through the challenge.

      And thanks! I literally spent 5 minutes making them to match the blog design, and have been too lazy to change the coloring since.


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