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:

Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente (cover)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.

My Thoughts:

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!

Those are my thoughts. Check out The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or read a plethora of other bloggers’ reviews!

Join the Conversation

44 Comments

  1. That is the best title ever and a cute cover too! My daughter is 8 and loves the Percy Jackson series, The Legend of the Guardian Series, and Goosebumps. I think this book sounds like something she might like. Do you think it’s appropriate for an 8 year old?

    1. Isn’t the title fun? I definitely think the story will be fine, and if she’s a strong reader, the language shouldn’t pose a problem. It’s definitely not simplistically written. The author has a related novelette online here that’s written in a similar style. Take a look and see what you think!

  2. That’s some title! I read the first three books of The Chronicles of Narnia recently so I’ll wait a bit before reading another book meant for younger readers but this is definitely going on my list.

    1. I know! I was surprised how long it didn’t take me to learn the title, though, for whatever reason. If you enjoy Narnia, I bet you’d like this one, too, but I can totally understand needing to wait a bit.

    1. All excellent adjectives for this book! Carol, who commented after you, says her 11-year-old daughter loved this one, so it sounds like it’d be perfect for your neighbor. What a great idea!

  3. I like that phrase “Valente’s outrageous creativity.” The well of imagination is very deep for her. I agree about the ending. I have been disappointed by too many novels that failed in their final chapters to deliver satisfaction. Valente is a happy exception!

    A question I do not know the answer to: Why is that long title, “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,” so easy to remember?

    1. That’s such a great question, Lindsay! I have no trouble at all remembering the title, despite the fact that it’s 20 syllables long. The ability to create such a title is, itself, quite a talent. Thanks again for the recommendation and the loan!

  4. Everyone loves this so much more than I did.

    A comment for Jenners, my daughter is 11 and really enjoyed it, much more than I did. We read it aloud together and she always wanted more, while I was thinking when is this going to end.

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t love it! This kind of story can be hit or miss with me (Alice in Wonderland and I did not get along well at all), but this one worked. I’m glad you at least found a gem for your daughter!

    1. I hadn’t realized Valente had much else to read, but now I’m curious! Funny, I hadn’t thought of the title as pompous, but I can see your point. It somehow…goes with September. So perhaps you’ll find her pompous as well!

  5. I’m hopeful about this book! I liked A LOT some things about the other Valente book I read, Palimpsest, but it was a little too slow for me. I’m hoping that in a book for younger audiences, she’s recognized the need to keep the story moving along.

    1. I hadn’t even realized she’d written much else, silly me, and I’m curious now. I definitely wouldn’t call this one slow. A bit random, at times, but I never found myself bored at all.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I hadn’t realized until after I’d read the book that there would be more, but I’m excited now, too.

    1. It’s not very short, definitely a novel, though it’s written for a younger audience and isn’t particularly long. I hope you enjoy it!

    1. I hadn’t realized Valente had other books, but it seems I’m in the minority, based on how many commenters have mentioned other works! I’d really like to try something else by her now.

    1. I hadn’t even heard of Valente until this book! I’m really curious to read her other works now, since I was so delighted with this one.

  6. I have heard so much about this book, and all of it has been good. It sounds like it was a really great adventure and like something that I would really love to sit down and get a good long look at. Glad to hear that you found it so wonderful and interesting. I may just have to take the plunge and grab it when I see it next!

    1. I’ve heard almost unanimously good things, too, which always makes me a little skeptical! I’ve definitely added my voice to the praise, though. I hope you like it if you do read it. Perhaps one of your kids might like it as well?

    1. Haha, that’s so true! The title definitely captures the flavor of the novel. I love it when that’s the case.

    1. The title, I think, really accurately captures the spirit and flavor of the book. I hope your library has it, and that you enjoy reading it!

    1. Thanks! I hope you enjoy it. The title is part of what drew me to the book. It definitely reflects the feel of the book!

  7. I’ve always seen this on the shelf and have been intrigued by the title but couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted to read it or not, but your review has made me decide to read it 🙂

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