"One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century."Time magazine, on the Fairyland series
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 author Catherynne M. Valente 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 is a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Fiction title for 2011.
About the Author
CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, and is best-known for her urban speculative fiction, including Palimpsest (winner of the 2010 Lambda Award), and The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden. This, her first novel for young readers, was posted online in 2009 and won the Andre Norton Awardthe first book to ever win before traditional publication. Cat Valente lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, and an enormous cat.
ANA JUAN is a world-renowned illustrator known in this country for her wonderful covers for the New Yorker magazine, as well as the children's books The Night Eater, and Frida, written by Jonah Winter. She lives in Spain.
Read an Excerpt
EXEUNT ON A LEOPARD
In Which a Girl Named September Is Spirited Off by Means of a Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle
Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of 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. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her and flew to her window one evening just after her twelfth birthday. He was dressed in a green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver’s cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes. It is very cold above the clouds in the shantytowns where the Six Winds live.
“You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child,” said the Green Wind. “How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes and be delivered to the great sea, which borders Fairyland? I am afraid I cannot go in, as Harsh Airs are not allowed, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Perverse and Perilous Sea.”
“Oh, yes!” breathed September, who disapproved deeply of pink-and-yellow teacups and also of small and amiable dogs.
“Well, then, come and sit by me, and do not pull too harshly on my Leopard’s fur, as she bites.”
September climbed out of her kitchen window, leaving a sink full of soapy pink-and-yellow teacups with leaves still clinging to their bottoms in portentous shapes. One of them looked a bit like her father in his long coffee-colored trench coat, gone away over the sea with a rifle and gleaming things on his hat. One of them looked a bit like her mother, bending over a stubborn airplane engine in her work overalls, her arm muscles bulging. One of them looked a bit like a squashed cabbage. The Green Wind held out his hand, snug in a green glove, and September took both his hands and a very deep breath. One of her shoes came loose as she hoisted herself over the sill, and this will be important later, so let us take a moment to bid farewell to her prim little mary jane with its brass buckle as it clatters onto the parquet floor. Good-bye, shoe! September will miss you soon.
* * *
“Now,” said the Green Wind, when September was firmly seated in the curling emerald saddle, her hands knotted in the Leopard’s spotted pelt, “there are important rules in Fairyland, rules from which I shall one day be exempt, when my papers have been processed at last and I am possessed of the golden ring of diplomatic immunity. I am afraid that if you trample upon the rules, I cannot help you. You may be ticketed or executed, depending on the mood of the Marquess.”
“Is she very terrible?”
The Green Wind frowned into his brambly beard. “All little girls are terrible,” he admitted finally, “but the Marquess, at least, has a very fine hat.”
“Tell me the rules,” said September firmly. Her mother had taught her chess when she was quite small, and she felt that if she could remember which way knights ought to go, she could certainly remember Fairy rules.
“First, no iron of any kind is allowed. Customs is quite strict on this point. Any bullets, knives, maces, or jacks you might have on your person will be confiscated and smelted. Second, the practice of alchemy is forbidden to all except young ladies born on Tuesdays—”
“I was born on a Tuesday!”
“It is certainly possible that I knew that,” the Green Wind said with a wink. “Third, aviary locomotion is permitted only by means of Leopard or licensed Ragwort Stalk. If you find yourself not in possession of one of these, kindly confine yourself to the ground. Fourth, all traffic travels widdershins. Fifth, rubbish takeaway occurs on second Fridays. Sixth, all changelings are required to wear identifying footwear. Seventh, and most important, you may in no fashion cross the borders of the Worsted Wood, or you will either perish most painfully or be forced to sit through a very tedious tea service with several spinster hamadryads. These laws are sacrosanct, except for visiting dignitaries and spriggans. Do you understand?”
September, I promise you, tried very hard to listen, but the rushing winds kept blowing her dark hair into her face. “I … I think so…,” she stammered, pulling her curls away from her mouth.
“Obviously, the eating or drinking of Fairy foodstuffs constitutes a binding contract to return at least once a year in accordance with seasonal myth cycles.”
September started. “What? What does that mean?”
The Green Wind stroked his neatly pointed beard. “It means: Eat anything you like, precious cherry child!” He laughed like the whistling air through high branches. “Sweet as cherries, bright as berries, the light of my moony sky!”
The Leopard of Little Breezes yawned up and farther off from the rooftops of Omaha, Nebraska, to which September did not even wave good-bye. One ought not to judge her: All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. But, as in their reading and arithmetic and drawing, different children proceed at different speeds. (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.) Some small ones are terrible and fey, Utterly Heartless. Some are dear and sweet and Hardly Heartless at all. September stood very generally in the middle on the day the Green Wind took her, Somewhat Heartless, and Somewhat Grown.
And so September did not wave good-bye to her house or her mother’s factory, puffing white smoke far below her. She did not even wave good-bye to her father when they passed over Europe. You and I might be shocked by this, but September had read a great number of books and knew that parents are only angry until they have discovered that their little adventurer has been to Fairyland and not the corner pub, and then everything is all right. Instead, she looked straight into the clouds until the wind made her eyes water. She leaned into the Leopard of Little Breezes, whose pelt was rough and bright, and listened to the beating of her huge and thundering heart.
* * *
“If you don’t mind my asking, Sir Wind,” said September after a respectable time had passed, “how does one get to Fairyland? After a while, we shall certainly pass India and Japan and California and simply come round to my house again.”
The Green Wind chuckled. “I suppose that would be true if the earth were round.”
“I’m reasonably sure it is…”
“You’re going to have to stop that sort of backward, old-fashioned thinking, you know. Conservatism is not an attractive trait. Fairyland is a very Scientifick place. We subscribe to all the best journals.”
The Leopard of Little Breezes gave a light roar. Several small clouds skipped huffily out of their path.
“The earth, my dear, is roughly trapezoidal, vaguely rhomboid, a bit of a tesseract, and altogether grumpy when its fur is stroked the wrong way! In short, it is a puzzle, my autumnal acquisition, like the interlocking silver rings your aunt Margaret brought back from Turkey when you were nine.”
“How did you know about my aunt Margaret?” exclaimed September, holding her hair back with one hand.
“I happened to be performing my usual noontime dustup just then. She wore a black skirt; you wore your yellow dress with the monkeys on it. Harsh Airs have excellent memories for things they have ruffled.”
September smoothed the lap of her now-wrinkled and rumpled orange dress. She liked anything orange: leaves; some moons; marigolds; chrysanthemums; cheese; pumpkin, both in pie and out; orange juice; marmalade. Orange is bright and demanding. You can’t ignore orange things. She once saw an orange parrot in the pet store and had never wanted anything so much in her life. She would have named it Halloween and fed it butterscotch. Her mother said butterscotch would make a bird sick and, besides, the dog would certainly eat it up. September never spoke to the dog again—on principle.
“The puzzle is not unlike those rings,” said the Green Wind, tipping his gaze over his green spectacles. “We are going to unlock the earth and lock it up again, and when we have done it, we shall be in another ring, which is to say, Fairyland. It won’t be long now.”
And indeed, in the icy-blue clouds above the world, a great number of rooftops began to peek out. They were all very tall and very rickety: cathedral towers made of nailed boards, cupolas of rusted metal, obelisks of tattered leaves and little more, huge domes like the ones September had seen in books about Italy, but with many of their bricks punched out, broken, turned to dust. Just the sorts of buildings where wind howls hardest, whistles loudest, screams highest. The tips and tops of everything were frozen—including the folk that flew and flittered through the town, bundled up tight much like the Green Wind himself, their jodhpurs and jackets black or rosy or yellow, their cheeks puffed out and round, like the cherubs blowing at the corners of old maps.
“Welcome, September, to the city of Westerly, my home, where live all the Six Winds in nothing at all like harmony.”
“It’s … very nice. And very cold. And I seem to have lost one of my shoes.”
The Green Wind looked down at September’s toes, which were beginning to turn slightly purple. Being at least a bit of a gentleman, he shuffled off his smoking jacket and guided her arms into it. The sleeves were far too big, but the jacket had learned a drop or two of manners in its many travels and adjusted itself around September’s little body, puffing up and drawing in until it was quite like her own skin.
“I think I look a little like a pumpkin,” whispered September, secretly delighted. “I’m all green and orange.”
She looked down. On her wide, emerald velvet lapel, the jacket had grown a little orange brooch for her, a jeweled key. It sparkled as though made out of the sun itself. The jacket warmed slightly with bashfulness and with hoping she’d be pleased.
“The shoe is a very great loss, I won’t lie,” clucked the Green Wind. “But one must make sacrifices if one is to enter Fairyland.” His voice dropped confidentially. “Westerly is a border town, and the Red Wind is awfully covetous. Terribly likely your shoe would have been stolen eventually, anyway.”
The Green Wind and September entered Westerly smoothly, the Leopard of Little Breezes being extra careful not to jostle the landing. They strode down Squamish Thoroughfare, where big-cheeked Blue and Golden Winds went about their grocery shopping, piling their arms with tumbleweeds for rich, thorny salads. Clouds spun and blew down the street the way old paper blows in the cities you and I have seen. They were heading for two spindly pillars at the end of the Thoroughfare, pillars so enormous that September could not see right away that they were actually people, incredibly tall and thin, their faces huge and long. She could not tell if they were men or women, but they were hardly thicker than a pencil and taller than any of the bell towers and high platforms of Westerly. Their feet went straight down through the clouds, disappearing in a puff of cumulus. They both wore thin circular glasses, darkened to keep out the bright Westerly sun.
“Who are they?” whispered September.
“That’s Latitude, with the yellow belt, and Longitude, with the paisley cravat. We can’t get very far without them, so be polite.”
“I thought latitude and longitude were just lines on maps.”
“They don’t like to have their pictures taken. That’s how it is with famous folk. Everyone wants to click, click, click away at you. It’s very annoying. They made a bargain with the Cartographers’ Guild several hundred years ago—symbolic representations only, out of respect, you understand.”
September felt very quiet in front of Latitude and Longitude. Being young, she was used to most people being taller than she was. But this was of another order entirely, and she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, and travel by Leopard is very tiring. She didn’t think she ought to curtsy, as that was old-fashioned, so she bowed from the waist. The Green Wind looked amused and copied her bow.
Latitude yawned. The inside of his mouth was bright blue, the color of the ocean on school maps. Longitude sighed in a bored sort of way.
“Well, you wouldn’t expect them to speak, would you?” The Green Wind looked slightly embarrassed. “They’re celebrities! They’re very private.”
“I thought you said there would be a puzzle,” said September, catching Latitude’s yawn. The Green Wind picked at his sleeve, as though miffed that she was not more impressed.
“When you solve a jigsaw puzzle,” he said, “how do you do it, pumpkin-dear?”
September shuffled her cold foot on the smooth blue stone of the Thoroughfare. “Well … you start with the corners, and then you fill in the edges to make a frame, and then work inward until all the pieces fit.”
“And, historically, how many winds are there?”
September thought back to her book of myths, which had been bright orange and therefore one of her favorite possessions.
“Four, I think.”
The Green Wind grinned, his green lips curling under a green mustache. “Quite so: Green, Red, Black, and Gold. Of course, those are roughly family designations, like Smith or Gupta. And actually there is also Silver and Blue, but they’ve made trouble off the coast of Tunisia and have had to go to bed without supper. So the fact remains: Today, we are the corners.” He gestured at the placid Latitude and Longitude. “They are the edges. And you, September”—he gently pulled a strand of September’s hair free of her brooch—“are the middle pieces, all funny shaped and stubborn.”
“I don’t understand, Sir.”
“Well, it’s all in the verbiage. One of the pieces is a girl hopping widdershins on one foot, nine revolutions. One is wear motley colors. One is clap hand over one eye. One is give something up. One is have a feline in attendance.”
“But that’s easy!”
“Mostly easy. But Fairyland is an old place, and old things have strange hungers. One of the last pieces is: There must be blood. The other is: Tell a lie.”
September bit her lip. She had never been fond of jigsaw puzzles, even though her grandmother loved them and had glued one thousand pieces all over her house as a kind of wallpaper. Slowly, trying to remember it all, she clapped one hand over her eye. She raised one foot and hopped in what she hoped was widdershins around the Leopard of Little Breezes. Her orange dress flapped against the green jacket shining in the sun. When she stopped, September unfastened the jeweled orange key from her lapel and pricked her finger sharply with its pin. Blood welled up and dripped onto the blue stones. She laid the key gently at the feet of the impassive Latitude and Longitude and drew a deep breath.
“I want to go home,” she lied softly.
Latitude and Longitude turned smoothly toward each other, as though they were on pedestals. They began to bend and fold like staircases, reaching out for each other and interlocking, hand into hand, foot onto knee, arms akimbo. They moved mechanically in their strange circus dance, jerkily, joints swinging like dolls’. The street shook a little and then was still. Ever so briefly, Latitude and Longitude kissed, and when they parted, there was a space between their mouths just large enough for a Leopard carrying a Harsh Air and a little girl. All September could see on the other side were clouds.
Solemnly, the Green Wind held out his gloved hand to the girl in orange.
“Well done, September,” he said, and lifted her onto the Leopard’s emerald saddle.
* * *
One can never see what happens after an exeunt on a Leopard. It is against the rules of theatre. But cheating has always been the purview of fairies, and as we are about to enter their domain, we ought to act in accordance with local customs.
For, you see, when September and the Green Wind had gone through the puzzle of the world on their great cat, the jeweled key rose up and swooped in behind them, as quiet as you like.
Copyright © 2011 by Catherynne M. Valente
Table of Contents
Chapter I. Exeunt on a Leopard,
Chapter II. The Closet Between Worlds,
Chapter III. Hello, Goodbye, and Manythanks,
Chapter IV. The Wyverary,
Chapter V. The House Without Warning,
Chapter VI. Shadows in the Water,
Interlude. The Key and Its Travels,
Chapter VII. Fairy Reels,
Chapter VIII. An Audience with the Marquess,
Chapter IX. Saturday's Story,
Chapter X. The Great Velocipede Migration,
Chapter XI. The Satrap of Autumn,
Chapter XII. Thy Mother's Sword,
Chapter XIII. Autumn Is the Kingdom Where Everything Changes,
Chapter XIV. In a Ship of Her Own Making,
Chapter XV. The Island of the Nasnas,
Chapter XVI. Until We Stop,
Chapter XVII. One Hundred Years Old,
Chapter XVIII. The Lonely Gaol,
Chapter XIX. Clocks,
Chapter XX. Saturday's Wish,
Chapter XXI. Did You See Her?,
Chapter XXII. Ravished Means You Cannot Stay,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Back in 2009, Catherynne M. Valente published Palimpsest. One of that novel's main characters, a woman named November, defines herself by a 1923 novel called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, one in a series by Hortense Francis Weckweet about a little girl named September who says "Yes!" (enthusiastic consent, so to speak) to adventuring in fairyland, portal-fantasy style. That book is a through-line in November's story of helping to open up a very adult Fairyland to immigration from our world, and judging from the excerpts Valente provided it sounded delightful, full of whimsy and led by a marvelously spunky narrator. And it didn't exist. But one experiment in crowd-funding later, it did. Valente wrote it and posted it online; then it won the Andre Norton Award, leading to a contract with a brick-and-mortar publisher. And that resulted in the book I have in my hands right now. A book which completely satisfies all the promise implied in Palimpsest and which I can easily picture becoming a classic of children's literature. Keeping true to what was implied about it in Palimpsest, Fairyland is set during WWI and is written in the tone of that era's children's literature. Valente is very much present as the Author, frequently breaking the fourth wall to confide in the reader and foreshadow what is coming next. Like the best in children's literature, she presents a fairyland that is full of wonders (a herd of wild bicycles, a wyvern who is the son of a library, and a little boy who met his mother before she gave birth to him, etc.) but also fraught with dangers -- dangers which our child protagonist can meet, but which push her to her limits and beyond. It's a fairyland that jives with all our stories of fairylands, and when September stands at a crossroads and has to choose between paths "To lose your way," "To lose your life," "To lose your mind" or "To lose your heart" we know exactly which one she will choose -- and the many, many ways her choice is the worst. We know the rules about not eating fairy food and always moving widdershins, and so does September because she's a bookish child; but keeping with the theme of enthusiastic consent she doesn't let those rules or the very real danger stop her when she has to save her friends. And keeping with a theme that Valente often develops, nothing comes without a price, lacing the happiest moments with poignancy. This is not my favorite of Valente's novels -- I prefer the gloriously ornate nested structure of The Orphan's Tales -- but it is an excellent place to start with her work, presenting glimpses of her absolutely exquisite prose and her deft hand with myth and folklore in a very accessible, downright conventional narrative. It is also the sort of book that the child I once was would have taken to heart and read to pieces; I hope, therefore, that many children get a chance to discover it and read it to pieces in turn.
This book is so original it's a shame to compare it to anything else, but it reminds me delicously of everything quirky I love in Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. It's just gorgeously written; I think adults wilk savor the language and enjoy September's adventures as much as children. You can't help but love September. She loves orange because it can't be ignored. She wants to adopt an orange parrot and feed it orange marmalade and butterscotch and everything orange...how could you not love such a heroine? Highly recommend!
I was super excited when this book arrived in my mailbox. I absolutely love the cover to this book. It's a beautiful jewel toned red with a picture of a dragon chained up and a girl with a huge key. This is a beautiful cover for the book. I had watched the book trailer a few weeks back and it piqued my interest. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making takes place during World War II. Summer's dad gets shipped off to be a soldier while her mother works in a factory building airplane engines. Summer is utterly bored with life when the Green Wind comes to take her away on an adventure to Fairyland. Summer is eager to leave her home and her life behind with little thought. I think this book is brilliant. I absolutely love the storyline. It has the unpredictability of Alice in Wonderland. I had no idea which way the story was headed. It also has an extraordinary cast of characters that are unforgettable. Summer is the main character in this story. She's an average twelve year old with a not so average destiny. I liked her character because she is vulnerable but wise. Along her journey she makes unusual friends but also has to learn things such as sacrifice, humility, loyalty, and perseverance to get her through Fairyland. Overall this book is perfect for people of all ages. I would not have a problem with my kids reading this and I would even recommend it to my mother. I can't sing this books praises enough. I'm going to go as far as to say it is on my top ten favorite books this year. This is Catherynne Valente first children's novel. I really hope she writes more of them.
“The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making” by, Catherynne Valente Twelve-year-old September can’t help but long for adventure, so when she’s invited to go to Fairyland she doesn’t think twice before accepting. September journeys into Fairyland with the Green Wind and a Leopard, but she meets many more friends along the way. When September finds out that Fairyland is in danger she and her friends have to find a way to save it. I just have to start by saying that Catherynne Valente is a brilliant author and I am in love with her stories. Put those stories together with the utterly captivating illustrations by Ana Juan and you get a book that will delight and fascinate everyone who reads it. Reading about September, Saturday (A Marid), A-through-L (The Wyverary), and all the other remarkable characters that populate this book was like spending hours in one of my favorite dreams. The messages of love, friendship, and bravery seamlessly woven within the pages warmed my heart. “The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making” is a book that begs to be read over and over again. Needless to say, I absolutely and completely loved it and I am so excited to start the second book in the series “The girl who fell beneath Fairyland and led the revels there”. Here is just one of my favorite passages, enjoy… “When you are born, your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of 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 in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the works going or else you’ll never be brave again.”
This book is glorious. I highly recommend it to anyone, young or old, looking for a bit of whimsy to brighten their day.
When I had the opportunity to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, I was so excited, because it reminded me of stories I would've read as a kid. I enjoyed it for the most part, but sometimes I was a bit frazzled trying to get through a chapter due to such imaginative descriptions. The writing and detailed descriptions are beautiful. But, I'm not sure younger readers would understand half of what is going on. So needless to say you need a wonderfully bright imagination to read this book, which is a fantastic thing to bring out in anyone. Just be prepared for very interesting creatures and happenings. I loved September. She never gave up and she stuck with what she believed in. The Wyvern, named A-through-L, was so sweet and such a great supporting character. He stuck by September and had all the qualities of a true friend. September and A-through-L's adventures were so grand and epic. Fairyland was definitely a fascinating place to visit and read about. Valente has wonderful world building talent and I wouldn't miss book two for the world! Oh and I can't forget to mention the beautiful illustrations this book has. They are so great and give you an insight to what each chapter gets into. I really enjoyed them!
This is such a great book for readers of all ages to read! Filled with adventure and great fantasy, you a driven into a world of no other. A world were rules are different, names are unique, and well, something you will never forget. First off, the story line. Absolutely amazing! I loved it! Once I got into the book, I knew it was going to be mind blowing. The story line is rightly paced, lots of meeting of new people, new places, and just pure fun read. Another thing I enjoyed were the names. Hello and Goodbye, Saturday, etc. Such unique names for a creative world. Nothing like I ever heard of and really enjoyed. I kept laughing at the names of people September kept coming by. She think she was wrong but then she figured out that, that was their name. HILARIOUS! What I also like about this book is the strong lead character, September. She is nothing short of a little girl. She learn the rules fast, and even made sacrifices where she didn't have too. She is an extraordinary young lady that completely blew me away. One thing for sure is that I can't wait to read this book to my son when he gets older. Adventure, fantasy, weird places and characters is something that all children can enjoy. Your mind is taken away by the great writing and easy description of the places that September visits. I too, plan on visiting Fairyland, where my mind can escape and finally be free!
One of my new favorite books. A classic fairy tale told in a modern voice. The joy of adventure and friendship with a twist of melancholy. Perfect for those who love Wonderland and Neverland and Narnia and Fantasia.
If u love adventure books, this one is pefect for you. Not too long nor too short. I read this for a grapic organizer in reading class. A girl named September is invited to Fairyland by the green wind and the lepord of the little breezes. On September's way, she meets a book loving dragon and a boy named Saturday. To find out more, read the book! This book is SO worth the money. ;))
This book was full of whimey.
This book is full of adventure and excitement. With quirky characters and an interesting plotline, your sure to love it :)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is whimsical and wonderful and an absolute delight to read! I enjoyed each and every page! I hope to see this one win some awards.
¿The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making¿ by Catherynne M. ValenteWhen 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. Book Review By Deb Carpenter-Nolting
This is an enchanting little book. It combines The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (minus the heroine's helplessness) with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (minus the religious undertones) with Alice in Wonderland (minus the, um, psychedelia). Given the many allusions to these works in this book, I'm sure it was intentional.September is partly heartless little girl tired of her own world who gets swept into Fairyland. Like any little girl in Fairyland, she needs a grand mission, and she finds one. September encounters wonderful characters on the way, my favorite being the Wyvearary (why, the offspring of a wyvern and a library, of course).My favorite thing about this book is that it's smart. It doesn't simplify its language or sentence structure for children--it sets the bar high than challenges its readers to meet it. It uses "irascible," "diplomatic immunity," "widdershins," and "sacrosanct" all within the first three pages. This is not written at your typical fifth grade level. The style of writing was much more reminiscent of C.S. Lewis than of typical young adult books these days.September is strong-willed and sweet and smart but not without her very human flaws. A perfect heroine.(And I think there's an allusion to Plato's The Symposium. Bonus points.)
I wish I had written this book. It¿s wonderful. The Girl is the kind of tale that is imaginative and silly enough to please a young audience while at the same time providing a sly, deeper commentary to please a much older crowd.Don¿t be put off by the stiff style of the opening chapter. It has that unrealistic, other-worldly Alice in Wonderland quality to it. Broad statements are made about the nature of children and stories, and the characters are so larger than life that, in the beginning, they don¿t have much humanity. But this quickly evolves, as September travels through fairyland, forging her own way with a force of character that Alice never had.The Girl is filled with creatures both familiar to fairy tale readers, such as fairies and witches, and totally unique, such as the living herd of migrating bicycles and a golem made entirely of soap. It¿s heart-breaking, beautiful, and true to fairy tale form, full of peril, hints of dark cruelty, and battles against evil. Quite simply, it¿s great fun.
Wonderful, imaginative, lovely, fantastic, just all things good.I've loved Catherynne M. Valente ever since I fell head over heels for In the Night Garden. This story is like very similar, only waaaay more accessible. To be treasured and shared.
Amazing in every way.
An extremely delightful little book that may mean more to adults than the children it was written for. I want a Wyverary of my own.
First of all I have to thank Judy for sending this one to me. You're the best!I loved, loved, loved this one! I really can't say that enough.This book started out as my "bathroom book", and quickly got pounced upon every chance I got, so I could finish the adventure.The reviews up top in the synopsis say it's a cross between Alice in Wonderland and The Golden Compass. I beg to differ. I do agree on Alice, but even the book seems strangely familiar to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Still, either way you see it, makes for a great read!This magical adventure never slowed down either. That was super fantastic. Most stories take a minute to pick up speed, or start out fast and fizzle halfway through. Not this one!A few words I don't think kids, especially teens, would understand. They may feel frustrated having to look things up though and not really know what the author meant. That is my only critique, though only slight.
I started to read this years ago when it was available online, and I couldn't get into it. I decided to take up the challenge again when it was selected as a book club read.I love fairy tales and have a large collection of old compilations. However, for some reason I had a hard time staying motivated to read this. I think it was the difference between it being a tale and a full book. After a while, I became weary of everything being completely off-the-wall and unexpected. It's nice for things to be original, but it's also helpful as a reader to know when the book's world has rules. In Fairyland, anything goes. Clothing and furniture are sentient, and wild velocipedes (those are big-wheeled bicycles) take part in seasonal migrations. There's a point when whimsy gets to be frustrating.That said, the writing here is top notch. Valente writes with grace. Her descriptions are a joy, and for a book that is readable for kids, it's also very deep and philosophical for adults. It doesn't gloss over the horrors of life, but shows how beauty can bring it all into balance. The ending was a particular surprise to me but worked quite well--it actually improved my opinion of the overall book. I will keep this on my shelf for now, simply because I think at age 12 this would have been an absolute favorite. As an adult... it's beautifully written, but I don't know if it will survive a future shelf-culling.
A delight in the way the Wizard of Oz books are a delight, but with more substance. Imagine a book as playful as the Oz books, but smart as Alice in Wonderland, and you will be close to understanding this one's greatness.
My Review:Oh, my golly graciousness. What in the¿ stumbling surprise¿ WHAT?! What. Is. This?!Quotes cover the covers of this book, my favorite is by Peter S Beagle who I¿ve already highlighted as the author of The Last Unicorn, ¿When I say tht this reminds me simultaneously of E. Nesbit, James Thurber, and Eva Ibbotson, I don¿t mean to take anything away from its astonishing originality. The book is a charmer from the first page. I¿ll be recommending this book to my own three children, the youngest of whom is forty-nine. Catherynne M. Valente is a find, at any age!¿Of course, ¿Winner of the Andre Norton Award¿ stands out as well as praise from Tamora Pierce, Holly Black & Neil Gaiman.But the title speaks of entertaining meanderings, doesn¿t it? And the artwork is unusual and not just fairyland cute, but also slightly frightening, don¿t you think? I mean the dragon on the cover certainly doesn¿t look like the Wyverary (cross between wyvern & library) at first glance, not to mention, the girl, September, seems to be hiding a very large key.Before I was half way through, I decided this book would need various ratings. For starters, it looks as if it would be a fast, simple read. I prepared myself for skipping through fairyland in a 245 pg zip. I stumbled and finally sprawled flat on my face and crawled to the end b/c this book took much more than a few days to read. The page count is just as misleading as the rest of it.I¿m not saying it¿s impossible to read quickly, I am saying it was impossible for me to read quickly. I have a secret passion for allegories, hidden meanings, references with depth ¿ and I kept falling into thought unexpectedly, rather like September was pushed into a well.Wait ¿ before I dive into Spoilers, let me sum up¿I gave it a 3.5 for speed of progress and tension, because I had difficulty wanting to think as hard as I wanted to for progressing purposes. (Yes, I am aware that doesn¿t make clear sense.) I was never deeply concerned for September. I never felt like I was her, either. That buffering created a bit of apathy, which would be where some readers might stay if the following didn¿t grab you:I really give it a 5.5 because it is one of those incredible books that involve so much author intent, there is almost a required dose of awe inspired naturally, and it seems quite possible that upon rereading it, the book will be entirely different.Now, onward to Spoilerings!!I had to take notes because there were so many deep pits of sudden meaning that caught me off guard, I lost track and forgot some of `em.From my notes, then¿Pg 205 ¿ ¿No one is chosen. Not ever. Not in the real world¿ you choose yourself. Just like you chose your path on the beach: to lose your heart is not a path for the faint and fainting.¿ The Green Wind is purring in September¿s lap as she contemplates quitting. He is really the spotted leopard who belonged to the former ruler, just as the wrench was once a needle wielded as a sword. Which is why Pandemonium is created of so much cloth and knitting.This is such an incredible idea, that a person¿s choice effects their future more than anything else, and even Greatness is part of that act of choosing one thing over another. September did not have any good choices on that beach referred to, and who knows that the sign was even really there? Or that she would find her heart by choosing to lose it?Pg 194 ¿ ¿We all just keep moving, September. We keep moving until we stop.¿ The shark is describing why he can¿t stop circling her ship, but he doesn¿t eat her because it was his daughter September saved by giving up her shadow half. That sacrifice came up again and again. Because of being cut off from her shadow, September was able to talk with the half-people and discover who her other half really was, and her discovery did not include her shadow! That heartless part of her was gone, flitting around in the river. And the Marquess flips the concept around because great magic is really g
Valente's lyrical prose enlivens a charming tale about a young girl who is taken by the west wind from her mundane home and whisked away to Fairyland. There September, the heroine, must save the magical realm with the help of her new and fantastical friends.Sound like a usual sort of plot formula? It is, but The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making goes beyond the cliched to offer genuine delights. A brief quote should give an idea."A place where it is always autumn, where there is always cider and pumpkin pie, where leaves are always orange and fresh-cut wood is always burning, and it is always, just always Halloween."Valente's words and descriptions bring such magical places to life, and the book is truly a delight.
Catherynne M. Valente's novel is absolutely wonderful. It has the same wild creativity as a Neil Gaiman novels mixed with the knowing wisdom of Terry Pratchett's work. Valente does not shy away from uncomfortable truths like C. S. Lewis did in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but rather faces them full on, making her story completely different than all its predecessors. I fell in love with this book from the first page and surprised myself by loving it all the way through. So often children's novels of this sort lag at the halfway point (The Graveyard Book for instance) but Valente's story kept its pace from beginning to end. I completely lost in Fairyland along with September, and I was a bit disappointed to find my way again with the closing of the last page. Chapter XVI (Until We Stop) is by far my favorite part of the entire book. The fishing scene is gruesome, heart wrenching, and overall just plain truthful in its depiction of September's reaction to killing the fish. If I had to do what September did, I would be bawling my eyes out too. I love that Valente shows real emotion and loss. I've always held C. S. Lewis at fault for not depicting the repercussions of the Pevensie children's adventures. After all those children went through, they should have PTSD. Valente, however, does not shy away from exposing her characters to lasting pain. Blood is drawn. Bones are broken. Loss is real. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is not treading new ground, but it really isn't trying to. Valente gives nods to Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Chronicles of Narnia throughout her story, and really this book has everything you loved about those old classics and so much more. Its a fairy tale for adults as well as children. And aren't those really the best kind?
A whimsical witty story children's story with dashes of adult humor, such as September's discussion with a fairy on how evolution works (survival of those who nick things the best, naturally).