Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland...

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

Published May 10th 2011 by Feiwel & Friends

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 the author 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.
I knew from the moment The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making that this was a book I could love, and I think to anyone who knows me it's pretty obvious why!  I had really high hopes, and I think that's why I've only just finished reading it.  I just didn't want my expectations to outshine this one.  If I had known that I was depriving myself of such a treat, I'd have read this little gem a loooong time ago and saved myself the torture! 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making tells the story of 12 year old September who up until now has led an ordinary (boring) life and wants nothing more than to have an adventure.  That is, until the mysterious Green Wind (a mysterious man dressed in all-green) and his Leopard show up and invite September to Fairyland and even goes so far as to suggest Fairyland may need her help.  September can't resist as she soon finds herself smack in the middle of Fairyland, meeting witches, a book loving dragon (!!!) and a strange blue boy named Saturday.  But all is really not well in Fairyland and soon it becomes clear that the cunning Marquess is responsible for the state of things...and soon it becomes clear that an adventure is just what is in store for September and her friends - that and so much more!

If I had to describe The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... in a few words, I would go with literary fairytale.  The writing, the flow of it is simply wonderful.  It's exactly what a perfect fairytale should be and more than once, I found myself wishing this book had been around when I was growing up! It's filled with achingly beautiful quotes like this:

“It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.”
And this:
 “She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.”
One more for the road:
“When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That does not mean it IS brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet, kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on.”
 I could go on and on with more of those - in fact, I spent some time liking my favorites on Goodreads right after I finished reading :)  Author Catherynne M. Valente has a stunning way with words that are able to tug at your heartstrings and appeal to your sense of wonder all at the same time.  This chick not only knows her fairytales, she lives them.  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, despite all it's whimsy and oddities always felt true and genuine.

And sweeter still, every new chapter has wonderful images to kick them of, like these:


Beyond that though, there are SO many things to love about this book. Fairyland itself offers a very fresh take on the idea of 'crossing over into a magical world.  The lore is rich and diverse, it holds together seamlessly like it's been around for hundreds of years but at the same time, it felt like nothing else I've ever read before.  If I had to compare it to other stories, I'd go with Alice in Wonderland with a little bit of the Wizard of Oz - but to me The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland...goes above and beyond those stories into something even more satisfying!

The main reason for this being the characters.  September for one is an absolute dear.  She is brave but not unrealistically so, she's determined, she's kind and a true friend and she loves books but she doesn't think she's anything special.  The supporting characters are just as wonderful though: A through L, the book loving dragon with a tender heart, Saturday shy and strong, the Leopard of Little Breezes, the Panther of Rough Storms (Yes, not one but 2 big magical felines ♥), The Green Wind...and a host of more quirky and entertaining characters; some nice ones and others, not so much but you could always be sure to be in for a surprise or a secret or two with every new face!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was sheer delight to me.  Despite it's small size, it's not a book I felt I could plow through but one I wanted to savor and take my time with.  I'd highly recommend it to fans of fairytales, and well-writen middle grade reads that easily appeal to the adult crown with a penchant for the enchanted (like me)!  Fans of Alice, Dorothy and Wendy will likely fall in love with September just as I did.  Bottom line though, if you're looking for a 'feel-good read', something filled with happiness, whimsy & courage, that will stir your imagination and put a smile on your face? The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is all of that and more!

30 comments:

  1. YAY!! Like I mentioned, I've been meaning to read this for AGES (it seems) because like you, I took one look at that cover and title and blurb and other reviews for it and just KNEW it would be the book for me. It's pretty sad that I haven't gotten to read this yet for that reason - I think I'll have to move it up my tbr now though! It really does seem in line with a lot of the classic fairytales we know so well. And that's SO impressive! The quotes and illustrations are great. Thanks for sharing all this and thanks for the great review! It may be what I need to get me to finally read this!!

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    1. Same here, I'd owned a copy for like over a year before actually getting to reading it! I just KNEW I'd love it too so I fail for not reading it sooner LOL I hope you'll read it soon AND I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did doll ♥

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  2. I've seen this book around, and I definitely need to add it to my TBR now. It sounds like such a whimsical read, and I absolutely love those bookish quotes! Awesome review, Micheline!

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    1. I hope you will pick it up Lee and that you'll love it just as much as I did!! Thanks for the sweet comment ♥

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  3. I own this but haven't read it yet, so I didn't want to read the whole review. From the sounds of the last paragraph, I'm going to enjoy it :)

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    1. Yay! I hope you'll get around to reading it soon Captain :D

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  4. This sounds like such a lovely book, and the illustrations are wonderful!

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    1. It really is and I agree the illustrations are something special! Thanks Mandee xox

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  5. I've been seeing reviews for this book all over the place and really ought to get around to reading it. Thanks for another great review!

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    1. Hopefully soon Rachel :) thanks for the nice comment!!

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  6. Oh, this sounds absolutely lovely! I will have to pick it up...and share it with my daughters too! :) Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!

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    1. Absolutely, it definitely deserves to be shared! I hope you'll all enjoy it Brandee :D

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  7. It's a wonderful book and one of my favorite middle grade novels. Whimsical, quirky, and literary are great words to describe it. I'm so glad you chose to showcase some of the illustrations. This one needs to be read by all!

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    1. Thanks for the awesome comment Kara, glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did!!

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  8. Great quotes. I haven't heard of this one, but glad that you enjoyed so much.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  9. These books have the longest titles ever! LOL The drawings inside are super pretty, thanks for sharing those! These ones always catch my eye but then I am not too sure about the genre and never end up picking them up. You have definitely made me super curious for them! Great review!

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    1. Bahahah yeah they definitely do!! Glad to have peaked your curiosity Jenni - hope you end up checking this one out! Thanks girl!

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  10. I never heard of this book, until seeing your review. It sounds awesome! I love a great fairytale/adventure and am so glad this one didn't disappoint you. I'm adding it to my pile today! Lovely review, Micheline and those pics are gorgeous!

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    1. Oooh yay, that's awesome! Glad you added it to the pile Lisa & thanks for the nice comment ♥

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  11. Ooooh I look forward to this book so much, looks and sounds great!

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    1. I hope you'll love it as much as I did Ula! :)

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  12. It really does sound beautifully written and right up your ally for sure--not saying I wouldn't like it at all just that this book really screams your name to me!! I also agree with Jenni what's with the humongous titles? Can I just call it "Book of long title"? lol. I love books with drawings and pics etc in it too it always gives it an extra special something. Great review, muffin!

    Signed: The best cousin ever

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    1. LMAO, it does doesn't it?! :) And the illustrations made it even more special to me! But yeah the titles are killer long - definitely makes them stand out because of it though! Thanks cupcake, a.k.a. best cousin ever! xox

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  13. So, this book sounds PERFECT for me. Drawings, great quotes, flowing, magical writing-style. What am I waiting for? I think I'm going to get myself a copy soon (only reason I love birthdays: money! :p)

    Great review.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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    1. Eeeep, I hope you manage to get your hands on it soon Mel - birthday money is truly the best :D Thanks for the awesome comment!!

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  14. I think this one sounds really fun!

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  15. I've seen this around, I'm so glad you liked it! Now I know I'll probably like it too! I'm a sucker for illustrated books too, and those look gorgeous :D

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    1. Awesome :D I hope you get to read it soon and that you'll enjoy it as much as I did Shaheen!!

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