The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making review

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

Feiwel & Friends, 2011. 978-0312649616

Synopsis: September lives a boring life in Omaha with her mother and a small amiable dog, washing pink and yellow teacups. When the Green Wind appears to her while she is doing the dishes in the kitchen sink and asks if she would like to leave Omaha, she climbs through the window without a thought onto the Leopard of Little Breezes and is whisked away to Fairyland. While she is in Fairyland, she meets a Wyvern, a Marid, and the wicked ruler the Marquess, and goes in a journey to help restore Fairyland to its less oppressed state.

Why I picked it up: It was recommended to me by a classmate because of my fascination with mythology.

Why I finished it: The book whisked me away from the first pages and was very hard to put down once I got into it. Valente has borrowed from the traditional Victorian fairy tale/fantasy novel and created her own version of a story that is a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Howl’s Moving Castle. Its mythos is unique in the fact that Valente has created a cast of characters that is very well established within pages of being introduced and yet still leaves room for them to evolve as the book progresses. September is an engaging and likable heroine for her resourcefulness and her curiosity, though the narrator explains that as a twelve-year-old, she is somewhere between having a Heart and being Heartless (as most children are because they are unafraid of consequences like adults). The comedy within the book isn’t overwhelming and lends itself nicely to the plot in all the right places, though I will admit that I was surprised at some of the mild violence (at one point September must catch a fish with a hook and eat it raw; she is also forced to wrestle with one of her companions in order to save them from a greater peril), but gladly it was not gratuitous. The book is fun, engaging, humorous, sad, and beautifully crafted for a first young person’s book and now I am curious to read more of Valente’s work.

Other related materials: The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente; The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick; Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick; The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu; Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier; Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver; The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai; The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens; Down the Mystery River by Bill Willingham; The Apothecary by Maile Meloy; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill; True (…Sort Of) by Katherine Hannigan;  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

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