Book Review! The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The title alone made me want to read this book. It also made me a little nervous, since a movie called The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies has demonstrated conclusively that a title can be more fun than the work itself, but never fear! This one happily lives up to its name.

The title also saves me the trouble of providing a plot summary. By and large you already have a pretty good idea what sorts of things happen in this story, a girl is taken to Fairyland and has adventures there. She meets strange people, encounters odd magic and weird rules. It has that surprising depth that you’ll find in all my favorite children’s books. The titular voyage itself takes up less of the story than I expected, happening near the end after most of the characters are well-established. 

The cast of characters is colorful and varied, as demanded by both the setting and genre. Our heroine is named September. She’s brave and resourceful, but still flawed enough to be interesting. In particular I liked her constant rationalization about the food she’s willing to eat. You can see that particular penny in the air a very long time before it drops.

Her companions include a Wyvern (not a dragon) named A-Through-L who may or may not be part library, a fairy-boy named Saturday who has an alien perspective of time, and a paper lantern who’s alive by virtue of being over a hundred years old. That last one in particular amused me, inanimate objects becoming alive after a century comes from japanese mythology, which I only barely recognized. Clearly I should brush up on my japanese folklore!

I also loved the narrator, who takes full advantage of being in the kind of book that allows a narrator to be a separate entity existing only to tell the story. I want to read this book aloud to children, partly because it’s the kind of book that’s fun for everyone involved in doing that, but mostly so I can say the parts where the narrator speaks directly to the reader.

I also have to give special mention to The House Without Warning, the chapter title made me laugh out loud.

There must be scary parts, of course, and one of them is surprisingly scary! When September enters a forbidden forest in a part of Fairyland that’s always Halloween, she starts to turn into a dry autumn tree. It’s the sort of body horror that would have seriously disturbed me as a child, and still creeped me out. I always was a sucker for that stuff. While I would have been uncomfortable reading that chapter, young me would have loved this book, and I wish I could send a copy back in time to the ’80s.

The author, Catherynne M. Valente, has several other books out, (One of which I just recklessly spent 99 cents on, breaking my book budget.) and I look forward to reading more of her work. She has an author page on Amazon here. In the picture she rather reminds me of a fairy herself.

If you like fairytales, or people exploring strange, lighthearted magical lands, you’ll probably like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It’s darker than Oz but still a bastion of sunshine & light compared to the brothers Grimm.

I feel terribly jealous of the children of today, because they can read this for the first time while they’re still children. I plan to spoil this by reading it to as many of the little brats as I can, ensuring that they’ll always hear my silly voices whenever they think of the characters. Mwuahahahaha!

Good night, my lovelies.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on October 15, 2013, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Oh, I think I enjoyed it as much as any child. Children’s books aren’t always for children.

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