“She fed me fish,” he whispered. “And blackberry jam.”
“Not together, I hope.”
See that beautiful cover? That’s one of the reasons I was excited to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, even though I can never wrap my head around the complete title of the thing and have taken to calling it the Fairyland book (#1). That lovely illustration, plus all the other delightful ones inside, were created by Ana Juan.
I mean no disrespect to the title or Ms. Valente, by the way. The title sets out the situation of the book nicely. September is the active participant in her own story of heroism, and the title is a fun callback to books of another era (as is the list of dramatis personae at the beginning).
I really enjoyed the Fairyland book. September is a girl living in Omaha who is whisked away one day by the Green Wind and his leopard friend to the magical place of Fairyland. There she has adventures, meets amazing creatures, and goes on quests. (As another once-upon-a-time young girl who lived in Omaha, I can’t count the number of times I wish I had been offered the same invitation. I don’t think I would have done as well in the same place, though.)
For the most part, I love Valente’s use of language (she likes adverbs way more than I do, and that’s the reason she lost a sliver of a star). She has a wonderful sense of humor and description, and I like how the narrator butts in occasionally with opinions of her own. The story has an old-style feel to it, reminding me a little of Roald Dahl and JRR Tolkien (The Hobbit). I also like what Valente does with the fairy tale trope by flipping things around and not being afraid to show the dark side that lurks under all of those stories (when it’s not right there, fangs glistening in your face).
Valente has also created some wonderful characters who I’m hoping to read more about in the rest of the series. Especially the wyvern who claims to be part library and calls himself a Wyverary. His name is A-Through-L, but September calls him Ell. But there are so many others: Saturday, the blue-skinned marid, Betsy with her gargoyle puppet, and Gleam, the one-hundred-and-twelve-year-old paper lantern, for just a few examples.
I took so many notes when I was reading the Fairland book. There are so many wonderful sentences, turns of phrase, and conversations. While the book is marketed as one meant for young adults, I think anyone who has a thing for old fairy tales and The Wizard of Oz (movie or book) and is looking for a story where the princess is fully capable of saving herself would enjoy The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
One of the many things I copied in my notes:
Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. –p. 35
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