ingrid7469, May 2, 2013 (view all comments by ingrid7469)
I almost let myself be put off by the title and the first couple of pages but SO glad I stuck with it - this book is a gem and there is so much to love about it. First, there's a strong female protagonist, which I'm always looking for, and it exhibits just an awe-inspiring amount of creativity. The illustrations are fabulous, the storyline complex, the characters delicious. This book is a hidden treasure.
thomsirveaux, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by thomsirveaux)
I don't have much interest in fantasy-type books, but Ms. Valente has for several years been a rare exception. She is well-versed in mythologies and fairy-tales from many cultures, but with this offering - the first in what Valente says will be a five-part series - her imagination is more fertile than ever, giving a few nods to Alice In Wonderful but mostly making something completely her own, with a heroine that is easy to root for and a Fairyland filled with creatures both familiar and less-so, but always intelligently and sympathetically rendered.
deb.nolting, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by deb.nolting)
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
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
It’s supposedly a YA book, but it’s really for anyone who loves fairytales. Plus, Valente’s use of language is so lush (she’s also a poet, which is obvious) the prose feels a little more substantial than the usual YA fare (which I love, don’t get me wrong), so I really think adults would love it, even if they don’t usually go for YA.
This book is about a girl named September living in Nebraska during WWII who gets whisked away to Fairy Land by the Green Wind and his Leopard. She goes on a quest (because isn’t that what girls in Fairy Land are supposed to do?) to retrieve a witch’s Spoon from the evil Marquess who is ruling Fairy Land with an iron fist. In the grand tradition of fairytales, she collects friends who help her on her quest, grows up along the way, and saves the world!
I loved everything about this book. I had a huge smile on my face when I finished it. It definitely incorporates a lot of familiar fairytale tropes, but Valente manages to keep things feeling fresh and innovative at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but I find a lot of her writing is really great at finding it. September herself is charming and clever and I loved her immediately. My favorite non-September character was A-Through-L, the half-Wyvern/half-library, who was forbidden to fly by the evil Marquess. I didn’t see the resolution coming and really enjoyed it.
Also, the brilliant SJ Tucker created a song to go with this book. It’s called ”Septembers Rhyme” and you can listen to it at SJ's website.
Entwhistle, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Entwhistle)
I absolutely loved “The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making”, by Catherynne M. Valente! This imaginative fairytale is great for all ages, young and old. Our heroine for this story is one “September” of Nebraska, a headstrong and curious girl who finds her way into fairyland by means of the Green Wind (a short man in possession of a green jacket and a leopard). Later she meets a Wyvern (a type of dragon with two legs and a barbed tail), who is “A” through “L” of a library and helps September as a guide and friend through her trials and tribulations to outwit the evil marquess. Beautiful artwork by Ana Juan augment the plethora of wondrous characters. The book is riddled with Carrollian logic and unique fairy creatures that will keep you turning the page for more.
Valente has also written a short supplementary prequel to this story: “The Girl who Ruled Fairyland -- For a Little While”. Only available in PDF form, it is worth the read for those who want to better understand the aformentioned marquess and Fairyland before devling into the book proper. I for one hope that there will be even more adventures in Fairyland in the near future!
Square Fish -
by Neil Gaiman, Newbery Award-winning author of The Graveyard Book,
"A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale, done with heart and wisdom."
by Publishers Weekly, Starred Review,
"This is a kind of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by way of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland — it's the sort of book one doesn't want to end."
by Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review,
"[Fairyland creates] a world as bizarre and enchanting as any Wonderland or Oz and a heroine as curious, resourceful and brave as any Alice or Dorothy. Complex, rich and memorable."
by Booklist, Starred Review,
"This book is quite simply a gold mine."
by The Horn Book,
"Amusing, wrenching, and thought-provoking."
by Lev Grossman, Time magazine,
"One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century."
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