The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, by Catherynne M Valente

  Buy from,, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – May 10, 2012

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.

Thoughts: I got a copy of this when it was first posted online as a freebie, but it sat unread on my Kindle for ages. What changed? Reading this. Where the author essentially says that hey, maybe kids reading books with big words and awesome stories to them will actually make them smarter. I developed a majot lit-crush on Valente right there and then, and made a point of reading this book at the first available opportunity.

I read this book mostly during my breaks at work, and while I regret not being able to just sit down and tear through the thing in one sitting, I think maybe doing it the way I did was beneficial. This is a book mean to be savoured, appreciated, and reading it piece by piece, chapter by chapter, puts you on the very same adventure that September is on. It felt epic and wonderful and properly like what fairy tales were supposed to feel like but never did because they were so short most of the time. This is a modern fairy tale for modern children who love their fancies and fantasies, and for adults who need reminding that children come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

With whimsical wordplay that was strongly reminiscent of Harry Potter, and the sort of sensible nonsense that never fails to thrill me, I followed September as she gets whisked away from the mundane world and thrust into the fantasy world of Fairyland, getting into trouble and going on quests and meeting all sorts of strange creatures and friends. My favourite (and I’m sure the favourite of just about everyone who reads this) is A-Through-L, the Wyverary. Wyvern+library, and this is where we run into a great example of the wordplay that Valente uses. It’s silly and captivating and speaks to my inner child that never wanted to stop messing around with words to see what new ones I could come up with, or new uses for old words.

This is a book for children, no matter how many big words are used. Children who are young in body, or young in spirit, who have already yearned for a world beyond the mundane, they will all enjoy reading this. The chapter titles are as long and amusing as the book title, the story is tight and well-paced and a utter treat to read. This is a book you do not want to pass over, either for yourself or for children you know. This is the sort of book that could kick-start a love of reading, or sate the literary hunger of a book-loving child, or keep you endlessly amused on a rainy day.

If all Valente’s work is as witty and creative as this, I can foresee myself becoming a big fan of hers.

The sequel to this, The Girl Who Fell beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, is due out next month. After having read this, just looking at the plot synopsis of the sequel about guarantees that I’ll enjoy reading it, and will probably read it the same way. Chapter by chapter, to make the journey last.

Hang on to your shadows, curl up with your wyveraries, and get lost in a delightful fantasy world.

4 comments on “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, by Catherynne M Valente

  1. I’ve also seen a lot of glowing reviews for this one all over, but I think you’re right that Valente’s post is the most convincing argument to read it. It sounds like a strange and enjoyable book – I hope I get the chance to read it soon.

  2. Pingback: September recap « Bibliotropic

  3. Pingback: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M Valente | Bibliotropic

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