The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Makingby Catherynne M. Valente
Number of pages: 326
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked
Gather up your courage and your wishes; grab a little pinch of luck – and prepare to be swept away, in a ship of your own making, to a land unlike any other. September is a twelve-year-old girl, Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and she longs for adventure. So when a Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes invite her to Fairyland – well, of course, she accepts (mightn’t you?).
When she gets there, she finds a land in crisis and confusion – crushed by the iron rule of a villainous Marquess – she soon discovers that she alone holds the key to restoring order. Having read enough books to know what a girl with a quest must do, September sets out to Fix Things.
As September forges her way through Fairyland, with a book-loving dragon and a partly human boy named Saturday by her side, she makes many friends and mistakes; loses her shadow, her shoes and her way. But she finds adventure, courage, a rather special Spoon, and a lot more besides . . .
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I’ve been wanting to get The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (will be called Fairyland from here on out) by Catherynne M. Valente ever since I read a review from The Book Smugglers. I was curious because they both gave high ratings for the book, but I was also a bit too stingy to get myself a hardbound copy, and it was quite hard to find one in local bookstores here. But patience is a virtue, because after some waiting (and browsing some buy petite scrubs sites in between), I finally spotted a paperback copy of the book in Fully Booked one time early this year.
Twelve-year-old September is Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and when the Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes came and asked to join them into Fairyland, she accepts. What follows is a fun adventure where September gets her courage and wishes washed, befriends the wyvern born from a library, and sets out to Fix Things for Fairyland who has been under a rule of a villainous Marquess.
I read the book for my Required Reading in September, just because the main character’s name is also September. I was prepared for a light and joyful fantasy romp, and I was really hoping that I would like it as much as the other reviewers said they did.
And you know what? I liked Fairyland very much! Fairyland is such a smart and fun book — fun because of all the adventures and characters that our heroine meets along the way, and smart because things were never really explained in detail, but the readers were allowed to figure things out. Everything in the book was so creative and bright and shiny, and I was truly, truly invested in everyone in the book.
But it’s not all bright and happy and joyful all the time — there was bloodshed, and several dark moments in the book that made me realize that it’s not really a children’s book after all. But I liked how it balanced off the fun elements and really brings out the point of the story and also makes September and our other characters grow up.
Other than the story, I really loved the writing. Valente’s writing is very whimsical and charming, and I was surprised at how many pages I have dog-eared in the book. There were some passages that were just fun (but true), like:
Temperament, you’ll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.
Some full of wisdom:
When you are born, your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living. So every once and a while, you have to scrub it and get the works going or else you’ll never be brave again…So most people go around with grimy machinery, when all it would take is a bit of spit and polish to make paladins once more, bold knights and true.
While some just squeezed my heart:
I will walk wherever it is I wish to go. I will walk to my grandfather the Municipal Library, and he will praise me for my unselfishness. I have walked my whole life. More will not hurt me.
Fairyland is a fun book, and I like that there’s more to look forward to in the next book, which I hear is also very, very good. I’m looking forward to reading more of September’s adventures (and finding out about that part near the ending — Did you see her?) and also reading Cat Valente’s other books for her gorgeous writing. :)