The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrations by Ana Juan
September lives in Omaha with her mother; her father being away in an unspecified war. Like most girls, September dreams of leaving her little world behind. Only instead of aiming for Los Angeles or New York, September yearns for adventure in another world. Lucky for September, the Green Wind offers to take her on an adventure if she will join him on the Leopard of Little Breezes. Without a thought, September clamors aboard, losing a shoe in the process. She is whisked away from Nebraska, over the Atlantic and past Europe and India. Eventually, September, the Green Wind, and the Leopard arrive in Westerly, meeting Latitude and Longitude there. To gain entry to Fairyland, a puzzle must be solved. Fortunately, the Green Wind knows the components of the puzzle and September correctly understands what direction widdershins indicates. From here, September begins her journey, eventually meeting witches, a Wyverary (he’s half Wyvern, half Library), the Marquess, a soap golem, and a wide variety of other kinds of people who all help her along as she crosses the entirety of Fairyland.
The Fantasy Part:
On some level, it’s almost easier to ask which part isn’t Fantasy. The story reminded me of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in that regard. The entirety of Fairyland and each character you meet pulls you further and further into the incredible world that Valente has created. There’s magic, certainly, but there’s also ingenuity and tenacity on September’s behalf. This book reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, Mistress Masham’s Repose, and several fairytales, all at the same time. In fact there is a point in the book where Valente indirectly claims that all of these other stories also took place in Fairyland (excepting Mistress Masham’s Repose ).
This story is magical in every way. Sure there’s magic in it, but the story, itself works magic on the reader. Every single character is well written, down to the supporting characters who are supporting other supporting characters. The imagery is nothing short of gorgeous. It feels like reading a Caravaggio. Valente has a way with words that makes me feel like I’m watching a movie with my mind’s eye.
It was a little surreal to experience this story on so many levels. It almost felt like there was more than one version of me reading the book. There was the adult me, who read of September and thought that should I ever have a daughter, I would want her to be very similar to September. Then there was twelve year old me. I could practically feel myself sitting on my mom’s floral armchair, wishing I could find an adventure like this one. Particularly when Valente nods to September’s reading habit.
This book is a delightful read. It feels like going on a vacation, with the guarantee that you will be returned home before anyone will have missed you. Valente effortlessly earns 5 ink bottles. If you’re looking for an adventure, regardless of your age, I highly suggest The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.