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Original Essays | September 30, 2014

Brian Doyle: IMG The Rude Burl of Our Masks

One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something... Continue »
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    Children and Other Wild Animals

    Brian Doyle 9780870717543


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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente and Ana Juan
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

deb.nolting, January 1, 2013

When I picked up Valente’s “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,” I thought my good friend Holly might like it. We first met in a Children’s Literature class, and later taught at the same college. We have traveled together, both at home and abroad and with my two daughters, and she has rescued me from certain peril on more than one occasion. We both love books. I’m not as crazy about fantasy stories as is my friend Holly, but I thought I’d give this one a read. Even though it is marketed for ages 10-14, it looked to have the makings of a fantasy extraordinaire.

I started reading it, and kept thinking, “Yes, Holly would like this.” She would take delight in the main character September, the young girl who leads a life of boredom in her parents’ house, “where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.”

My friend would enjoy the narrator’s dry humor and the fact that September begins her journey in Omaha, Nebraska, leaving it behind along with one prim little mary jane shoe with a brass buckle as she hoists herself over the sill and takes the hand of the Green Wind. My friend would like the helpful Green Wind and the witches “Hello” and “Good-bye.” She would love the Wyvern, A-Through-L, whose father was a Library and whose siblings are M-Through-S, and T-Through-Z. She would empathize with Saturday, A Marid who belongs to the Marquess and can only grant wishes if he is defeated in battle. She would not like the Marquess, but she would acknowledge the need for a manipulative nemesis in the complex plot. She would wish she could join the migration of the herd of velocipedes (bicycles) and meet an interesting free spirit like Calpurnia Farthing. She would be befrought with worry when September encounters Death, as was I.

At this point in the story, my thoughts of how much my friend Holly would like the book dwindled as I began thinking about how much I liked the story.
I wondered how things would turn out for A-Through-L and Saturday. I became enchanted as Gleam, the helpful lantern, assisted September in finding her way, and I held my breath as I entered the sinister world of the Marquess. I kicked off my own prim mary jane shoe and left it in the real world as I dogged September’s footsteps through Fairyland. Perhaps I, like September, could keep a foot, or at least a shoe, in both worlds, a shadow of myself returning each spring to Fairyland.

Before spring, my friend Holly and my two daughters must read this book, so that we can ready ourselves for our next trip and we can circumnavigate Fairyland together, in the fantastic ship of Catherynne M. Valente’s own making
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