Sometimes you (and by you I really mean I) may think nothing is going to parallel Milo’s journey and valor in The Phantom Tollbooth. What could compare to Alice’s journey to Wonderland? I think The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente will have a comfortable spot among the perennial fantasy favorites of my childhood. Honestly, I really do believe this book will become a classic. I know I could see myself reading it to my metaphorical children someday.
September (gotta give big ups to girls with month-names) is a 12 year old girl who has an average life. Then her dad is called to war and her mom has to leave the home to work. This leaves September with a lot of alone time, a desperate longing for her dad, and more than her fair share of loneliness. One day while washing dishes, a Green Wind invites September on a quest to save Fairyland. Along the way she rides a flying leopard, becomes BFF with a wyvern, and makes plenty of new friends.
Okay, basically I just want to express my love straight up for A Through L aka Ell the wyvern. This dragon-esque creature believes his father is a library. Ell wants to find his grandfather, another library, and become a librarian. There are certain characters who doubt the truth of this, but guys my heart freakin ached because Ell wants to believe so badly that his father was a library and I’m all shine on you crazy diamond.
“In stories, when someone appears in a poof of green and clouds and asks a girl to go away on an adventure, it’s because she’s special, because she’s smart and strong and can solve riddles and fight with swords, and give really good speeches, and… I don’t know that I’m any of those things. I don’t even know that I’m ass ill-tempered as all that. I’m not dull or anything, I know about geography and chess, and I can fix the boiler when my mother has to work. But what I mean to say is: Maybe you meant to go to another girl’s house and let her ride on the Leopard. Maybe you didn’t mean to choose me at all, because I’m not like storybook girls: I’m short, and my father ran away with the army and I wouldn’t even be able to keep a dog from eating a bird.”
Further, I pretty much loved September. She’s not perfect. She’s not always brave. But she is down for her friends and I think that is incredibly important. Loyalty is a virtue I value very highly. I think September really comes into her own in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. By this I mean, she does not automatically become perfect, but she learns big truths, fights her own battles, and is changed by her adventures. Really, I can’t exactly ask more out of a book.
Catherynne M. Valente’s writing style is very fanciful. It’s like, those pictures of a book being opened and above it is this whole glowing magical world. I guess to put it simply Valente really gives flight to the imagination. I honestly hope she writes more children’s books, if only to recapture the feelings that my childhood favorites gave me.
“Those were all big words, to be sure, but as has been said, September read often and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.”
Also, there are illustrations by Ana Juan, whom I don’t know anything about. But, what I have seen, I enjoyed. The illustrations in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland take place in the chapter headings. They are smooth clean lines and have relevance to the content. Pretty much, yeah I am a fan.
“We all live inside the terrible engine of authority, and it grinds and shrieks and burns so that no one will say, lines on maps are silly. Where you live, the awful machinery is smaller, harder to see.”
Disclosure: Received for review.