Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

I'm going to be honest, I love Catherynne Valente's work. Love. This story was first published on her website, and I somehow missed it. When I finally found my way to it, the last part of the book had been taken down in anticipation for its print publication. There was no way I was starting this book without finishing it, so I put down the publication date in my calendar, and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, by chance, luck, or my good star looking down on me, I was offered to review an advanced copy of the book by the publishers. I was so happy I could barely contain myself. And when I received it, I held it in my hands, preciously, almost scared to open the first page. But what else can one do with a book, but dive in, and see where it takes you? So I did. and, boy, what a trip it took me on. What an adventure!

Twelve-year old September is met one day at her window by a Green Wind (riding a panther). He offers to take her on an adventure into Fairyland, where wonders await her. September slowly finds that her help might be needed there. The Marquess, ruler of Fairyland, is fickle, unpredictable, and even cruel. September makes friends, including a wyvern whose father is a library and a strange boy named Saturday, and offers her help. She soon finds herself on a quest that takes her further than she ever thought she would ever go.

This book did not dissapoint my over-the-top anticipation and expectation in any way. It even surpassed them. I should have known. I should have known it would be more than what I could imagine. It is a testament to Ms. Valente's storytelling talent that she can do that. Not only is her prose absolutely gorgeous, it makes you want to write down or underline a quote every single page, but the way she weaves a story is remarkable.

This book is a treasure. Truly. I can barely find the words to describe how delighted it made me. How I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, the adventure, the love, the friendship, and the courage. Oh the Bravery of this book, the Bravery of September. She starts as such an interesting, but well-known type of character, like Alice and her Wonderland. But soon, she morphs into her own character, puts her feet down, and become so tangible, she felt like a friend or a little sister. But it was more than that, I wanted to be September, or at the very least it made me wish I could have been like her when I was younger. But September is not the only one stealing my heart in this book, oh no, every character that she meets, all of her friends and ennemies, have something special and interesting. Catherynne M. Valente has this ability to take well-known creatures such as dragons, wyverns, witches and fairies and create them anew, so they become unique with their own mythology, their own world.

The story is told by a third-person omniscient narrator that oftens talks directly to the reader, and even points out details and insights into the process of storytelling itself. But instead of feeling condescending or taking you away from your immersion in the story, it feels familiar and comforting. Like having a story told by a particularly gifted person around a campfire at Summer camp. Or your mom weaving a story while you slowly fall asleep with your head on her stomach, staring at the changing shapes on your ceiling created by your nightlight.

I could go on and on about this book. How it's both for children and adults because it speaks to the same place in our hearts. Or how, even if you are not as enthusiastic about it as I am, it is just a lot of fun. It has funny moments, dark moments, quests, friendships, wonders and adventure. What more can you want?

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making comes out May 10th 2011. Take note, write it down. Buy yourself a copy.
(thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the ARC copy)


  1. What an enthusiastic review- I love it :) The title alone makes me want to pick this book up. Your review just got me a little more excited!

  2. I took your recommendation for Calpurnia Tate and LOVED that book (did you see my review? here: http://bit.ly/h3gfOI) so I'm going to take your word on this one too, and pre-order myself a copy pronto on Amazon :-D