What I Read: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Maybe it’s the part where being a grown-up and looking for jobs and apartments is stressful, but I’ve been reading a lot of YA/children’s books lately. And they’re GREAT so don’t judge, two subscribers that I have. I read a book that the nice folks at Macmillan provided to the NYU SPI kids entitled The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Author: Catherynne M. Valente, with illustrations by Ana Juan

What a lovely little book! I read the majority of it over a couple of days. The story follows September, who is taken into Fairyland one night as she’s doing the dishes. She must then navigate her way through, having promised different things to different characters along the way. It’s very Alice in Wonderland if Alice had gotten to make friends instead of everyone just kind of being a turd to her. It does not condescend in language or in plot, which is awesome in children’s books. ALSO it was originally a blog project, which is really cool. Basically it’s just a really great, fun read. I keep wanting to call it sweet, but the book also really has some dark moments. (Moments–they are never very long.)

If I could change anything, it’s that the plot at times seems to stagnate in weirdness after weirdness, instead of feeling as though it’s going anywhere. A lot of strange things happen in Fairyland, but it feels like September just isn’t getting anywhere because a new strangeness has to be explained. I liked all the magical elements, but there were times when the action suffered for it. Anyway, it’s a nice read and I would definitely recommend it. I’ll certainly hold onto it.

Also, I think Neil Gaiman’s cover blurb is pretty accurate: “A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom.”

Favorite Quotes:

“The Green Wind frowned into his brambly beard. ‘All little girls are terrible,’ he admitted finally, ‘but the Marquess, at least, has a very fine hat'” (3).

“All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. This is why it takes so long to grow one” (4).

“Those were all big words, to be sure, but as has been said, September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying” (51).

“Fairies started out as frogs. Amphibianderous, right? Well, being frogs was no kind of fun, so we went about and stole better bits–wings from dragonflies and faces from people and hearts from birds and horns from various goats and antelope-ish things and souls from ifrits and tails from cows–and we evolved over a million million minutes, just like you” (70).

“That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory. Just a wish to go back home–someday, somehow” (169).

“September waited. She long ago learned that if she waited and blinked and behaved like a pupil, eventually someone would lecture her on something” (186).

“Breaking things heals a great many hurts. This is why children do it so often” (203).

Read it! 4 stars!

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