After reading many glowing reviews of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente, I knew I wanted to read it. A member of my book group was kind enough to lend me her copy.
About the Book:
At 12 years old, September is a precocious child. She has read plenty of stories about children who get whisked away from their dull, ordinary lives to have splendid adventures. So when the Green Wind arrives on his Leopard of Little Breezes to carry her far from humdrum Omaha, September climbs eagerly aboard without even waving goodbye to her mother as they fly away.
From the moment her journey begins, September encounters all manner of beast, law, and building construction, facing each with all the courage and curiosity she can muster. As her very own Fairyland adventure unravels before her, she embraces it enthusiastically.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a wonderful, whimsical, charming and clever book. It had the same self-aware feel of The Phantom Tollbooth, plus a fantastical voyage of which L. Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis could not help but approve. It’s what Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland should have been, matching Carroll’s astonishing creativity but with enough plot to hold the whole thing together.
September is the perfect heroine for the story. She is just the sort of girl you’d expect to find in such a tale, and the fact that she is picked from her ordinary life with the full knowledge of other little girls’ magical adventures makes her all the more endearing. She has pluck, she has smarts, she has just enough sass to keep her going without getting her into too much trouble. And despite her pride, she is fiercely loyal to those she counts among her friends.
Valente’s outrageous creativity is a joy to experience. She has truly crafted a Fairyland of her own making, while at the same time dropping nods to others’ versions and tying her own magical land into an astonishingly large number of other such stories. Every turn of the page brings some new delight to experience, things I doubt my poor brain could have conjured on its own in a million years. I loved discovering what this clearly talented author would dream up next. Even the chapter titles are clever; the first, for example, reads: “Chapter 1, Exeunt on a Leopard: In Which a Girl Named September Is Spirited Off by Means of a Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle.”
September’s story is labelled for younger readers, but it sparkles with language and cleverness fully capable of delighting readers of all ages. I found myself marveling again and again at how sophisticated the book was on all fronts. It has the flavor of a child’s adventure tale but has quite successfully been made to appeal to adults.
I cannot end my thoughts on this lovely little novel without mentioning my extreme satisfaction with the ending. You’ll find no spoilers here, but I must say that I never could have predicted it, nor can I think of anything that would have pleased me more or fit the story better. As someone to whom endings are very important, I was so very happy with the way Valente brought her heroine’s adventure to a close. I cannot recommend this one highly enough!