Fantasy · Juvenile Fiction · Reviews

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


“I am a sly and wicked narrator. If there is a secret to be plumbed for your benefit, Dear Reader, I shall strap on a head-lamp and a pick-ax and have at it.”

When you come across a book with a title so long the bookstore closes by the time you finish reading it, you know it has to be a winner. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, is another one of those books that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and yanks you into its world, with no consideration of your well-being or need to wash the dishes or do anything besides immerse yourself completely. This book is so different from any other fantasy story I’ve come across, and I am head over heels for it. It’s the strangest stone soup you’ve ever read, made up of Alice in Wonderland & Wizard of Oz & The Phantom Tollbooth, with underlying tones of a glorious ode to autumn. (With a main character named September, what else could it possibly be?)

Enticing, descriptive, rich and comfortable, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is tells the tale of a girl named September who is plucked from her sleepy midwestern town (right out the kitchen window!) by a green wind wearing a smoking jacket, and her travels through Fairyland. She meets strange creatures and sees marvelous sites and performs heroic deeds, checking off all the typical fairytale tropes, except that this Fairyland is far from ordinary. Her strange creature is a Wyverary (the son of a dragon and a library), her marvelous sights are towns made completely out of fabric and bathhouses that launder her wishes, and her acts of heroism include wrangling a herd of stampeding velocipedes. 

But the icing on the cake, of course, is September. She is the perfect heroine, because she is small and frightened and not always brave and sometimes a little selfish, but she never stops being courageous for her friends and steadfast for what’s right. 

I chuckled tastefully all the way through poetic autumnal valentine, but I was sobbing by the last chapter. (The villain really got to me at the end there!) 5/5 stars to another middle grade fantasy novel that is beautiful, original, and a cut above the rest!


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