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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making Paperback – 8 May 2012
|Paperback, 8 May 2012||
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Description for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
“A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale, done with heart and wisdom.” ―Neil Gaiman, Newbery Award–winning author of The Graveyard Book
“September is a clever, fun, stronghearted addition to the ranks of bold, adventurous girls. Valente's subversive storytelling is sheer magic.” ―Tamora Pierce, author of The Immortals series
“A mad, toothsome romp of a fairy tale--full of oddments, whimsy, and joy.” ―Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles
“When I saw that this book reminds me simultaneously of E. Nesbit, James Thurber, and the late Eva Ibbotson, I don't mean to take anything away from its astonishing originality. It's a charmer from the first page, managing the remarkable parlay of being at once ridiculously funny and surprisingly suspenseful. Catherynne Valente is a find, at any age!” ―Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn
“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.” ―Publishers Weekly, 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.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This book is quite simply a gold mine.” ―Booklist, starred review
“Amusing, wrenching, and thought-provoking.” ―The Horn Book
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 Award―the 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.
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Lemme start by saying that the only downside of this book for me was that it September’s adventure kick started from page one. A little build-up wouldn’t have hurt. But everything else in this book was perfectly paced. What I think the author pulled off very well is the fact that until you finish a little over a quarter of the book, you don’t know, per se, whether this is light-hearted tale or one with significantly more danger. And that’s exactly what September would have felt. I adore Ell, trustworthy and wise in everything from A through L. What amazes me is the author’s ability to manipulate the very concept of a fairytale, and have such an interesting take on things that we often deem mundane. When you read the conversation between Mallow and September, you wonder whether Mallow is right, and whether she does what she does for a good reason. That showcases he authors impeccable ability to put you in September’s shoes, and make you wonder all that she wonders. You do feel sorry for Mallow when she tells you the reason for her cruelty but just like every other tale, good is rewarded and bad is punished, regardless of one’s reasons.
Overall, this book was an amazing read and leaves you waiting to pick up the second book, waiting to go back to Fairyland.
It's a pretty typical fantasy storyline as well, and it takes something special to make such stories stand out. Catherynne Valente's "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" is an enchanting example, filled with delightful nonsense, wryly witty prose, and a wonderfully oddball world that reminds me of a more lyrical Lewis Carroll.
A young girl named September is whisked away from her boring Nebraska home by the Green Wind, who takes her to Fairyland. But September soon finds herself traveling through Fairyland herself, encountering a soap golem, a half-library wyvern named A-Through-L, a wairwulf, the Perverse and Perilous Sea with its golden beaches, The House Without Warning, gnomish customs agents, a jeweled key, a migration of bicycles.
She also is given a quest by a pair of witches -- find the magical spoon that the cruel Marquess stole from their dead brothers. So she and the Wyverary set out to the city of Pandemonium, but soon find themselves (and a flying leopard named Saturday) on a new quest, with overwhelming results for all the people of
Normally, Catherynne Valente has a lush, lyrical, sensual writing style, and there's a fair amount of that in this book ("... the moon slowly fall down into the horizon and all the dark morning stars turn in the sky like a silver carousel"). Her Fairyland is a weird, sometimes dangerous place filled with countless oddball creatures (migrating bicycles!), making her story feel like a more plotcentric "Alice in Wonderland."
But since this book is meant for children, she also weaves in a wry, arch style that reminds me of some classic British prose (“As you might expect, the geographical location of the capital of Fairyland is fickle and has a rather short temper"). This gets a little twee sometimes, but Valente also weaves in a bittersweet thread as the story goes on, as well as some dark, delicately heartrending moments.
It takes a little while to warm up to September, since she is initially Heartless (like many children), and doesn't care much about what worry she might cause her parents. Then again, it's pleasant to have a heroine who goes happily into another world without moping about going home -- and despite being Heartless, September proves herself to be a sweet, compassionate girl who is just childlike enough to accept the weirdness.
Catherynne Valente blends her velvety prose with a quirky magical twist in"The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making." And she leaves the door to Fairyland open... just in case.
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For me, the language was too stilted and some of the "creative" descriptions were too contrived. September is a girl from 1940s Nebraska, but the language sounds very British to me. I've never known an American who used the words "shall" or "shan't" for "will" or "won't", or used "for" instead of "because". And the asides from the Narrator to the reader drive me nuts. They don't move the plot forward, and the tone is excruciatingly whimsical. Some of them go on for several paragraphs, and I get bored and restless before they're done. Some of them are designed to put the reader in the know while the characters remain uninformed. And they say so. Others read like self-indulgent "I know you must be just dying to know how I do this" nonsense.
However, I did say that I'm halfway through book 5, mainly because I like the world the author has created, and I like many of the characters. I like some of the ideas--sentient clothing and herds of stampeding velocipedes, for example. A wyvern whose father was a library--that's so weird it's brilliant. Characters that don't fit gender stereotypes--two thumbs up. A city made entirely of fabric and yarn that moves around at will--another great idea. More creative ideas and interesting characters abound in the other books of the series.
The story, like Valente's other tales, are quite odd and you surely must have the craving for something strange in order to appreciate it. The book is littered with dark themes and works more like a bildungsroman than a fairy-tale. September's journey is filled with pain and heartache. The series works as the destruction of innocence and childish expectations. When you are young, everything seems possible and within reach. As you get older, you realize that it is not. This is what September learns as the story moves on. Therefore, adults would appreciate the work, but children will not find it relatable. While, the funny happenings in Fairyland are quite amusing, the message that is being delivered will be lost to those who don't know any better.
The first book of this series, The Girl Who Circumnagivated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, introduces the reader to September, a girl as precocious as Wonderland’s Alice, as brave as Oz’s Dorothy, as kindhearted as Narnia’s Lucy, and just as eager as all of them for an adventure to disrupt her humdrum life. The Green Wind arrives at September’s window to whisk her away to Fairyland, where she makes unusual friends, including a Wyverary, a creature who is half-Wyvern, half-library (makes sense, right?), and a Marid, a young genie of the sea. September discovers the outlandish beauty of Fairyland, with its capital city crafted entirely out of textiles, its herds of wild velocipedes (bicycles), and its exquisite fairy food. However, the new ruler known as the Marquess has enacted numerous laws that threaten to remove all the “fairyness” from Fairyland, such as chaining all flying creatures’ wings, requiring everyone to go through customs before entering Fairyland, and forcing inhabitants to work in factories. September resolves to help her new friends defy the Marquess but instead finds herself forced to go on a quest for a mystical sword—otherwise the Marquess will have her friends executed.
Although this may sound like the beginning of so many other fantasy quest stories, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is unique in its own right. The sword September must retrieve for the Marquess is unlike any traditional sword you may have read about before, and the ship September builds to speed her quest is one of a kind, because…well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out why. I said Valente’s writing style reminds me of fairy tales from another era, but the story of September is its own delightful thing. September, I believe, has earned a place next to Alice, Dorothy, and Lucy as a girl who, just like them, has left her indelible mark on a magical world as limitless as her imagination.
(And now I am really tempted to write an old-fashioned apostrophe, beginning with something like “O! Fairyland—how fair are your skies, how crystalline your seas, how…” Okay, I’ll stop, I promise. It’s that kind of book, though—just makes me want to write longhand with a quill pen!)