Friday, July 15, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente

Genre: children's fantasy-- illustrated
Pages: 247 (hardcover)
Published: May 2011 by Feiwel & Friends
Recommended for: just about anyone up for a whimsical and fantastical tale, beautifully illustrated and marvelously told

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. 

Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.  With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

My Take:

This is the first book I've ever bought solely because the book trailer was so darn catchy!  I found myself watching the pencil animations and humming that little song over and over again.  (Click here for the trailer, if you want to get it stuck in your head, too.)  I was expecting The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland to be a modern Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure, and in many ways it was.  There was a little less of the sheer, merry madness of Lewis Carroll's classic, and a bit more colorful quirkiness.  The illustrations and the packaging of the book are just superb.  I can't imagine any child-- or any adult, for that matter-- not wanting to immediately pick up this book and flip through its pages on sight.

Valente's Fairyland is a very different one from the one visited in urban fantasies, even though September's journey begins in Omaha, Nebraska.  It is kind of reminiscent of Never-land: a place where Longitude and Latitude tower over a Fairyland city and autumn reigns eternal over a mythic forest where alchemists dwell and dance.  The most lovable character is A-Through-L (or simply L) is a Wyvernary, a young wyvern (not a dragon) and September's dear companion, who spent his childhood soaring around a library, whom he is certain is his father.  Little bits of wisdom and cleverness shimmer on every page, and the magical goings-on are never what you expect they might be.  September is wonderful: a combination of Narnia's adventurous and curious Lucy and the more headstrong, fierce Lyra from The Golden Compass.  For a twelve year old girl from Omaha, she definitely has a lot of mettle... and as it turns out, it does not hurt that she was born on a Tuesday and manages to befriend a certain devoted key. The villain of the piece is the Marquess of Fairyland: an all-powerful and terrible young lady, albeit with a really superb hat, who sends September on a seemingly impossible quest.  In September's Fairyland there are horrors as well as bizarre wonders.  The book tells of an orchestra of stolen children in glittering shoes, a mysterious caged boy who sees the future and the past and can grant you a wish only if his life is in grave danger, a suspicious shadow, the charitable, capricious Green Wind and his leopard... everything is as entrancing as it is strange, and certainly memorable.

I really have no complaints or pet peeves about this book what so ever.  It is sweet, adorable, clever, surprising, satisfying, and altogether marvelous.  I most certainly recommend it, and cannot wait to see if Catherynne Valente will continue September's adventures in a forthcoming volume.

All-around Rating: 5/5  


Maggie Desmond-O'Brien said...

The title alone of this one has sold me alone. I haven't even seen the book trailer yet (and am a little nervous to if it gets stuck in your head so badly)! Glad to hear the book lives up to its quirky marketing.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

Sounds magical, loved the review

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