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

by Catherynne M. Valente

Other authorsAna Juan (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2011



Local notes

Fic Val





Feiwel & Friends (2011), Edition: Middle Grade Fictioin 1A, 247 pages. (Mar 2018). $16.99.


Twelve-year-old September's ordinary life in Omaha turns to adventure when a Green Wind takes her to Fairyland to retrieve a talisman the new and fickle Marquess wants from the enchanted woods.


Locus Award (Finalist — Young Adult Novel — 2012)
Mythopoeic Awards (Finalist — Children's Literature — 2012)
Best Fiction for Young Adults (Selection — 2012)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

247 p.; 6.19 inches

Media reviews

I won’t lie. Some folks do NOT like this book, and I can understand why that is. For me, though, this is just one of the smarter juxtapositions of the fantastical with the tongue-twisted. Here you have an author who clearly enjoys writing. And if that enjoyment seeps through the page and into the
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reader’s perceptions, then here is a book that they’ll clearly enjoy reading. A true original and like nothing you’ve really ever seen before.
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Told by an omniscient narrator who directly engages readers, the densely textured text deftly mixes and matches familiar fairytale elements, creating a world as bizarre and enchanting as any Wonderland or Oz and a heroine as curious, resourceful and brave as any Alice or Dorothy. Complex, rich and
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The book's appeal is crystal clear from the outset: this is a kind of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by way of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, made vivid by Juan's Tenniel-inflected illustrations.

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 5* of five

The Book Description: 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
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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 Review: Magic is real.

Hello? Are you all right down there? Nothing broke in the fall, did it?

Magic, as I was saying, is real. Magic, not the stupid majgicqk of the boring nonillion-ologies of million-paged forest-rapers about the Queen of the Orc's long-lost son's Qwest to Fynd the Hynd or whatever. That sh*t should be banned. Or very very heavily taxed.

Ahem. Trying to find polite again.

So yes, September is magic, and Fairyland is magic, and Valente is a sorceress whose incantation is this book. The real deal, laddies and gentlewomen, le pur sang, descended from the right hand of the lawrd (which always sounded vaguely naughty to me, but I'm incurably low-minded). This YA fantasy novel is what y'all who need magic should aim yourselves towards like lodestones to the pole. Look no further, this is it.

Seriously, should I call someone? This falling down while gasping is a smidge alarming.

September is Ravished from her mother and her life, goes on a quest to find a Spoon for a Witch, meets the Magical Helper and overcomes the Magical Foe, and in the process saves Fairyland, grows into a wise woman, and goes home for a nap. That's the plot. Basic government-issue story.

So why am I, YA-averse and phauntaisee-phobic, giving it five stars? Because. It's magic. The real deal. Every one of us begins life in a universe of unbounded possibility and slowly but surely submit ourselves to the chains and locks and gears of adulthood. Fairyland, that state of unbounded possibility, recedes from us as each nasty rule and wicked, spiteful decision made by or against us does its grim work.

We use our unique, indescribable, polymorphous magic tools to sever and close and shut off, just as September is gulled into thinking she must do to uncouple Fairyland from reality, from our world of machines and banks and school. We're taught that the painful and nasty process is necessary, will save us and everyone we love, is right and just and correct. So most of us mangle and chop away, thinking the pain is growing up and growing wise and becoming adult.

Some few of us, like September, are given a moment of magic, and see the process for what it really is: Death with slow rotting, oblivion enough to be bearable but shot through with the awareness of the loss we've been tricked into suffering at our own hand. And some fewer still retain, magically, access to that other and better world. They come and they go, leaving us trapped souls for just long enough to be noticeably changed on their return, if we're sharp and attentive. Which, to my utter shock (not), most of us do not.

Valente's work, in the main, is polished prose telling interesting stories. Her adult tales will repay your reading time, and even (for many who Don't Read Such Things) be a revelation of quality work taking place in fields far from the ordinary haunts of dull adults. Seek that out, do, and firmly squelch the lip-curling until one full book has passed before your eyes.

But here? This? This is magic. The real deal. Approach it slowly, with a heart open and a mind clear, and it will enfold you in its warmly feathered, hard-muscled wings, and bear you away to that place you cut off so long ago. March in with your expectations set on stun, your ideas loaded like rocks in a slingshot ready to let fly, and your experience will resemble that of the US Army in Afghanistan: What hit me? Ow! Stop that! Ow!

I speak from (happily changed) experience.
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LibraryThing member bragan
This wonderful fairytale reminded me in places of L. Frank Baum, of Roald Dahl, of Lewis Carroll and of Neil Gaiman, but while it partakes of all kinds of fantasy patterns and fairytale traditions, it feels very fresh and original, too. It's whimsical without being cutesy and warm-hearted without
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being treacly, the kind of fairytale that doesn't lie about the harshness and complexity of the world but doesn't downplay its simple wonders, either. Also, it's well-written and entertaining. Recommended for all ages!
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LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
I picked this book up from the public library on the strength of a review read here on LibraryThing. I invited my 10-year-old daughter to read it with me, with the hope that we could read it aloud at a chapter per day, alternating reader duties. It turned out her stamina was not really enough to
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read an entire chapter aloud at a sitting, but she would at least start the even-numbered chapters in our reading.

The story is full of homages to Oz, Narnia, Wonderland, and other elseworlds of children's fantasy, the book is clearly marketed to children (or at most "young adult" readers), and the children's section of the public library is where I found it. But the narrator addresses the reader as a grownup peer, and there is a lot for adults to enjoy in this story.

The protagonist September is twelve years old, and she is "ravished" from Omaha, Nebraska to Fairyland by a fellow named the Green Wind. Once there, she accumulates some loyal companions as she finds herself pitted against the Marquess, the despot currently ruling the realm.

There is a very explicit opening for sequels at the end of the tale, along with some rather surprising teases regarding unfinished business. We may take a breather, but I hope my daughter will be up for another of these later.
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LibraryThing member strongpieces
An extremely delightful little book that may mean more to adults than the children it was written for. I want a Wyverary of my own.
LibraryThing member krau0098
I am a huge Valente fan and so far have loved everything I have read by her. So it is probably no surprise that I absolutely adored this book as well. This book was much funnier and less vague than other Valente books I have read; but just as wondrous and creative.

September is sick of washing
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teacups and sick of the company of her little amiable dog. So when the Green Wind shows up and offers her a ride to Fairyland on the Leopard of Light Breezes she jumps at the chance. September quickly discovers that not everything in Fairyland is going well. The Marquess has been instating horrible rules (although she has a marvelous hat). September decides to go to the capital Pandemonium and find the Spoon that the Marquess has stolen from the Witch Good-Bye. She is accompanied by The Green Wind's thoughtful coat, and a red Wyvern who cannot fly. Along the way her quest is diverted again and again and September learns many fabulous things.

This book was beautiful inside and out. Valente's writing is a spectacular weaving of beautiful and lush images that absolutely come alive. The book itself is wonderful with delightful pictures at the beginning of each chapter. The book reminded me of Alice in Wonderland a bit, you just never know what new and fantastical thing September will find around the next curve.

Valente creates a classic tale that is very creative, beautiful, witty, and intelligent. The whole book is just a delight to read. The characters are easy to love; September is stubborn and determined but adores her friends and is quick to defend them. Even the bad characters are understandable in their evilness.

The book ends well but has a couple story threads left hanging. For example we never find out what happened to September's shadow and then there is the mysterious girl that asks September to play hide and seek.

Overall an absolutely spectacular book; I was sad when it ended. A must read for fantasy fans, especially fantasy fans that adore fairy tales. This is a beautiful, humorous, heartwarming, creative, and absolutely engaging read that no one should miss out on. Fans of Neil Gaiman's books should also check this one out; there are times when the storytelling reminds some of his stories as well.
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LibraryThing member ferrisscottr
Tried on two different occasions to read this book and can't do it.
I'm sure it was a blast to write (you could tell she was having fun) and I'm sure for some people this is right up their alley but it's just not for me.
If this is what I liked I would give it 5 stars but I tried to finish twice and
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couldn't so I'm giving it 1 star.
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LibraryThing member raizel
I read this book because Time magazine raved about its sequel. Maybe it was just my mood at the time, but it felt like cotton candy or clouds---very substantial looking from a distance, but kind of empty close up.
LibraryThing member ladycato
I started to read this years ago when it was available online, and I couldn't get into it. I decided to take up the challenge again when it was selected as a book club read.

I love fairy tales and have a large collection of old compilations. However, for some reason I had a hard time staying
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motivated to read this. I think it was the difference between it being a tale and a full book. After a while, I became weary of everything being completely off-the-wall and unexpected. It's nice for things to be original, but it's also helpful as a reader to know when the book's world has rules. In Fairyland, anything goes. Clothing and furniture are sentient, and wild velocipedes (those are big-wheeled bicycles) take part in seasonal migrations. There's a point when whimsy gets to be frustrating.

That said, the writing here is top notch. Valente writes with grace. Her descriptions are a joy, and for a book that is readable for kids, it's also very deep and philosophical for adults. It doesn't gloss over the horrors of life, but shows how beauty can bring it all into balance. The ending was a particular surprise to me but worked quite well--it actually improved my opinion of the overall book. I will keep this on my shelf for now, simply because I think at age 12 this would have been an absolute favorite. As an adult... it's beautifully written, but I don't know if it will survive a future shelf-culling.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
Books of this nature face a heritage of clichés they are forced to mould themselves to and the tired familiarity of treading that path where only the window dressing differs. There will be cute play-on-words, quirky beings met, companions weak but stalwart, villains powerful but comedic and
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fatally flawed, etc. and it will all be sugar sweet and occasionally amusing. As the girl in question, September at least shows some awareness of this as a fan of fairy tales herself, and she has no mission in mind until she takes one up in the belief that this is how things are done. A key ingredient that is missing is the quest to return home, an omission worth paying attention to. Also, it is not all sugar on this outing: there will be blood.

This novel doesn't particularly break the mold and even boldly echoes the plot of Oz, but it wears a nice gloss and it doesn't cross any fatal lines. The narrator's asides and commentary punctuate the story with wise and knowing observations spiced with a hint of foreshadowing. There are the usual lessons about maturity, developing a sense of compassion, etc. I very much like the ending (heavy-handed groundwork for a sequel aside), which cast a better light on the novel as a whole and made me feel it had been worth reading. There should have been stronger hints towards that end sprinkled earlier, to tremble my assumptions. Mostly to entertain myself in the meantime, I began reading September as someone accustomed to indulging in escapism only to discover that realities lurk in even the farthest corners of dreams, like a reader who finds epiphany and will henceforth read for more than just the story. Maybe not something the author was going for, but I think it's there.
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LibraryThing member aliceoddcabinet
This book left me speechless. Granted, my world is held up by the supports of narratives like Fairyland, and so September became very dear to me. It is stellar. It is stunning. It wrests the Fairy Tale from the maw of Walt Disney and places back firmly in the darkened forest of teeth. This is not
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just a "tale", it says something about tales, it has a point of view about their weight and their influence. She presents us with a strong able heroine, without resorting to the (altogether bloody *boring*) idea of Gender-Role-Reversal, and without the obligatory (often annoying) "sassiness".

I liked this book so much I don't even want to recommend it to everyone. Because I don't want to have a conversation about how you didn't like it, if you don't.

But still. Buy it. Read it. Give it to friends. There's a reason this book is on the bestseller list.
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LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: September is in the middle of washing the dishes when the Green Wind comes in through the kitchen window and offers to take September away to Fairyland. Her father is away fighting a war, and her mother is always at work at the factory, so September bids farewell to her home in Nebraska
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without a second thought. The Green Wind is not allowed into Fairyland proper, however, so after he gives September some advice on travelling - and warns her to steer clear of the Marquess, who rules Fairyland - September finds herself deposited in the Perilous and Perverse sea, with a single shoe, a desperately helpful jacket, and enough magic to be able to see some of Fairyland's secrets. She soon meets some witches, whose stolen spoon she promises to reclaim from the Marquess, and A-through-L, a half-wyvern, half-library who is willing to accompany on her travels to Pandemonium, the capital. But, as is always the case in Fairyland, September's quest is more difficult than it seemed at first, and she must face dangers and unravel the mysteries if she is to have any chance of surviving, let alone completing her task.

Review: This book was amazingly good. Or, more accurately, 80% of this book was good, and 20% of it was amazing, but that 20% came at the end, and turned what was an enjoyable but not particularly mind-blowing book into something that I am raving over.

So, for most of the book, I was thinking "okay, it's a modern twist on Victorian children's fairy tales," with a fourth-wall-breaking narrator and some self-awarely-old-fashioned language and a more modern sardonic perspective of some of the moralizing done in classic stories of this type, but still hewing true to the original formula: disaffected child is taken away to Faerie, where things are strange and magical and where she has adventures and faces dangers and learns lessons about courage or friendship or home or whatever. And, as I said, I was fine with all of that. I like fairy tales in all their forms, I like modern retellings that wink at but don't talk down to their audiences, and I was getting along well with Valente's sense of humor. If that had been all there was to the book, I would have finished it a happy camper.

But that's not all there was to the story. In the last few chapters, as September finally figures out what's really going on, the whole perspective of the story shifts, and it's brilliant. Valente manages to take a completely fresh look at one of the more troubling and dissatisfying aspects of the fairy stories she's emulating, while still managing to make it fit into the tone and conventions of those very stories. I don't want to give too many details away, for fear of spoiling that moment of revelation, but it was a twist that bowled me over, stole my heart, and threw everything that Valente had done with the first part of the book into a completely new light, both plot-wise and literary-wise. I probably would have read the sequels regardless, but the last few chapters rocketed them up to the top of my list. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This book relies on a lot of the conventions of the "stolen child" fairy story - books like the Narnia series or Alice in Wonderland or The Phantom Tollbooth - so if you grew up with those books, and/or if you like more modern twists on the form (Neil Gaiman's Stardust comes to mind), then The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a light read that will be right up your alley.
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LibraryThing member Bookswithbite
This is such a great book for readers of all ages to read! Filled with adventure and great fantasy, you a driven into a world of no other. A world were rules are different, names are unique, and well, something you will never forget.

First off, the story line. Absolutely amazing! I loved it! Once I
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got into the book, I knew it was going to be mind blowing. The story line is rightly paced, lots of meeting of new people, new places, and just pure fun read. Another thing I enjoyed were the names. Hello and Goodbye, Saturday, etc. Such unique names for a creative world. Nothing like I ever heard of and really enjoyed. I kept laughing at the names of people September kept coming by. She think she was wrong but then she figured out that, that was their name. HILARIOUS!

What I also like about this book is the strong lead character, September. She is nothing short of a little girl. She learn the rules fast, and even made sacrifices where she didn't have too. She is an extraordinary young lady that completely blew me away.

One thing for sure is that I can't wait to read this book to my son when he gets older. Adventure, fantasy, weird places and characters is something that all children can enjoy. Your mind is taken away by the great writing and easy description of the places that September visits. I too, plan on visiting Fairyland, where my mind can escape and finally be free!
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LibraryThing member Jannes
Everything a good book should be, and more: Exquisite prose, truly imaginative story, wonderful characters. It ís irresistably told, with a subdued sense humor and impeccable timing. There's a sort of meta-narrative going on about the telling tales, and such things often leave me tired, but this
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time it is perfectly balanced and I find myself loving the book even more for it.

Valente also plays wonderfully with the assumtions and tropes of the classic adolescent fairy-tale adventure (put down by authors like Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis and Frank Baum) and takes them apart, but in a gentle, loving way that very few authors could pull off.

So, yeah, I really liked it.
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LibraryThing member Lisa2013
recommended for: everybody ages 8 and all the way up

Nothing less than 5 stars for this gem.

It’s really really hard for me to write a review because I was inundated with so much to say about every page, every line.

This is a wonderful and completely ingenious new fairy tale.

I was chortling from
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page 1 and 2 and... It’s wickedly funny, and unusually smart. There is something brilliant, funny, touching, quotable on nearly every page.

I appreciated the lack of sentimentality and yet the ability to keep me emotionally engaged.

I’d been a tad worried as I’ve seen this compared to Alice & Oz and I’m not a big fan of either. But, if anything, this reminded me of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book I adore; and to those other books too but in ways I thoroughly enjoyed.

There are fabulous chapter titles and sub-titles that give hints of what’s going to happen. And I loved the cover illustration and each picture that’s at the beginning of every chapter.

What to say about this story? I am not even going to try. Just a few little things: I love September; she’s an amazing character. I particularly appreciated her kindheartedness when she had to eat and had to kill a fish in order to do so. I love the many original characters, and particularly got a kick of the everyday normally inanimate objects that here are alive and sentient. There is a fun twist near the end, which perhaps I should have seen coming but which came as a complete surprise to me.

Most enjoyable for me is that while with many books in this sub-genre I usually feel that “it was all a dream or fantasy” with this story I believed everything really happened.

This screams loudly that this book is destined to be a classic.

There are so many quotes I wanted to include because so much of the book is quotable so here’s just one of many, many memorable passages:

“It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.”

This book fits that bill.

If I’d been in the right frame of mind, this could have been a two day read for me, but though it took me many days to finish, I don’t mind because there was so much to savor.
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LibraryThing member SistersGrimm
“The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making”
by Catherynne M. Valente

When I picked up Valente’s “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,” I thought my good friend Holly might like it. We first met in a Children’s Literature class, and
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later taught at the same college. We have traveled together, both at home and abroad and with my two daughters, and she has rescued me from certain peril on more than one occasion. We both love books. I’m not as crazy about fantasy stories as is my friend Holly, but I thought I’d give this one a read. Even though it is marketed for ages 10-14, it looked to have the makings of a fantasy extraordinaire.

I started reading it, and kept thinking, “Yes, Holly would like this.” She would take delight in the main character September, the young girl who leads a life of boredom in her parents’ house, “where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.”

My friend would enjoy the narrator’s dry humor and the fact that September begins her journey in Omaha, Nebraska, leaving it behind along with one prim little mary jane shoe with a brass buckle as she hoists herself over the sill and takes the hand of the Green Wind.
My friend would like the helpful Green Wind and the witches “Hello” and “Good-bye.” She would love the Wyvern, A-Through-L, whose father was a Library and whose siblings are M-Through-S, and T-Through-Z. She would empathize with Saturday, A Marid who belongs to the Marquess and can only grant wishes if he is defeated in battle.

She would not like the Marquess, but she would acknowledge the need for a manipulative nemesis in the complex plot.

She would wish she could join the migration of the herd of velocipedes (bicycles) and meet an interesting free spirit like Calpurnia Farthing.

She would be befrought with worry when September encounters Death, as was I. At this point in the story, my thoughts of how much my friend Holly would like the book dwindled as I began thinking about how much I liked the story.

I wondered how things would turn out for A-Through-L and Saturday. I became enchanted as Gleam, the helpful lantern, assisted September in finding her way, and I held my breath as I entered the sinister world of the Marquess.

I kicked off my own prim mary jane shoe and left it in the real world as I dogged September’s footsteps through Fairyland. Perhaps I, like September, could keep a foot, or at least a shoe, in both worlds, a shadow of myself returning each spring to Fairyland.

Before spring, my friend Holly and my two daughters must read this book, so that we can ready ourselves for our next trip and we can circumnavigate Fairyland together, in the fantastic ship of Catherynne M. Valente’s own making.

Book Review
By Deb Carpenter-Nolting
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LibraryThing member EJAYS17
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making (damn, that's a long title! I'll just call it The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland from now in in the interests of not giving myself RSI) by Catherynne M. Valente started life as an online project, and in fact won the Culture Geek
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Best Web Fiction of the Decade award. The book has already picked up the Andre Norton award. I first heard about it at the 2010 Worldcon where the author spoke about it in a conversation with friend and fellow author Seanan McGuire (it was a public conversation, I was not eavesdropping). It's also referenced in the book Palimpsest, and that may have been where it was conceived.

As a book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is beautifully presented. Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of MacMillan) have outdone themselves here. There's a perfect marriage between Cat Valente's words and the whimsical drawings of Ana Juan that adorn the front and back covers as well as the opening of each chapter.

I knew I'd like it before even opening it, because I don't think Cat Valente is capable of writing a bad book. This woman's facility with language is stunning. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is one of those rare volumes that can be read across generations and ages, and everyone will find something in it. Adults will be swept away by the words and the imagery and children will find wonderment in the creation of Ms Valente's imagination.

The story is quite simple. 12 year old September is taken by the Green Wind; a Harsh Air, on his steed; the Leopard of Small Breezes away from her boring life and deposited in Fairyland, where she meets a vast array of all sorts and with the help of a frinedly Wyverary (kind of like a Wyvern, but much better read); A-Through-L (September calls him Ell for convenience) and a young Marid; Saturday, she saves Fairyland from the evil Marquess.

I was blown away by this book. It is a stunning tour de force from beginning to end. The style is rather reminiscent of a bygone age where key events from the chapter are presented at the beginning in italics. There are elements from classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, but it is still remarkably original and complusively readable.

Seanan McGuire informed me at Worldcon that a sequel is in the works, so that's something to look forward to. As for now The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is the best thing I've read this year, or for the last 2 for that matter. I'll be pushing for it to get a Hugo at next years Worldcon.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
This weird and wild tale is one part Wizard of Oz, one part Neverending Story, One part Alice in Wonderland, and one part Neil Gaiman tale. At the same time it’s also something completely original and new. It’s a girl on an adventure, dropped down in a fantastical land. She meets a dragon like
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creature named Ell (A-Through-L) and a blue boy named Saturday. I was completely sucked into the story and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

“When you were born your courage is new and clean. You're brave enough for anything: crawling off staircases, saying the first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like."

"Though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief."

"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. That is why it takes so long to grow one."

"Why worry about the thing that may never come to pass? Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow."
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LibraryThing member Dipodomy
A great book, very much in the spirit of much of the classic fantasy that has come before it. The plot is intentionally reminiscent of many different traditional and modern fantasy stories, a classic take on the hero's quest that does a good job of knowing when and how to twist the elements and
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with more than enough cleverness to amuse and entice.
The personal themes brought up in the book deal with the importance of friendship but also the necessity of dealing with some things on your own. Societally the book deals with the question of order vs freedom and what should the balance within society be when some people want more freedom and some people want more order.
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LibraryThing member kkisser
A young girl named September goes on an adventure to Fairyland and discovers that not all fairy tales play by the rules and not all quests are safe or easy, though one will still be able to meet fantastical creatures along the way. A lovely new fairytale adventure written with wit and charm that
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should delight both young and old. My only displeasure was not having a small child to read aloud to.
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LibraryThing member BurgandyIce
My Review:

Oh, my golly graciousness. What in the… stumbling surprise… WHAT?! What. Is. This?!

Quotes cover the covers of this book, my favorite is by Peter S Beagle who I’ve already highlighted as the author of The Last Unicorn, “When I say tht this reminds me simultaneously of E. Nesbit,
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James Thurber, and Eva Ibbotson, I don’t mean to take anything away from its astonishing originality. The book is a charmer from the first page. I’ll be recommending this book to my own three children, the youngest of whom is forty-nine. Catherynne M. Valente is a find, at any age!”

Of course, “Winner of the Andre Norton Award” stands out as well as praise from Tamora Pierce, Holly Black & Neil Gaiman.

But the title speaks of entertaining meanderings, doesn’t it? And the artwork is unusual and not just fairyland cute, but also slightly frightening, don’t you think? I mean the dragon on the cover certainly doesn’t look like the Wyverary (cross between wyvern & library) at first glance, not to mention, the girl, September, seems to be hiding a very large key.

Before I was half way through, I decided this book would need various ratings. For starters, it looks as if it would be a fast, simple read. I prepared myself for skipping through fairyland in a 245 pg zip. I stumbled and finally sprawled flat on my face and crawled to the end b/c this book took much more than a few days to read. The page count is just as misleading as the rest of it.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to read quickly, I am saying it was impossible for me to read quickly. I have a secret passion for allegories, hidden meanings, references with depth – and I kept falling into thought unexpectedly, rather like September was pushed into a well.

Wait – before I dive into Spoilers, let me sum up…

I gave it a 3.5 for speed of progress and tension, because I had difficulty wanting to think as hard as I wanted to for progressing purposes. (Yes, I am aware that doesn’t make clear sense.) I was never deeply concerned for September. I never felt like I was her, either. That buffering created a bit of apathy, which would be where some readers might stay if the following didn’t grab you:

I really give it a 5.5 because it is one of those incredible books that involve so much author intent, there is almost a required dose of awe inspired naturally, and it seems quite possible that upon rereading it, the book will be entirely different.

Now, onward to Spoilerings!!

I had to take notes because there were so many deep pits of sudden meaning that caught me off guard, I lost track and forgot some of ‘em.
From my notes, then…
Pg 205 – “No one is chosen. Not ever. Not in the real world… you choose yourself. Just like you chose your path on the beach: to lose your heart is not a path for the faint and fainting.”
The Green Wind is purring in September’s lap as she contemplates quitting. He is really the spotted leopard who belonged to the former ruler, just as the wrench was once a needle wielded as a sword. Which is why Pandemonium is created of so much cloth and knitting.

This is such an incredible idea, that a person’s choice effects their future more than anything else, and even Greatness is part of that act of choosing one thing over another. September did not have any good choices on that beach referred to, and who knows that the sign was even really there? Or that she would find her heart by choosing to lose it?
Pg 194 – “We all just keep moving, September. We keep moving until we stop.”
The shark is describing why he can’t stop circling her ship, but he doesn’t eat her because it was his daughter September saved by giving up her shadow half. That sacrifice came up again and again. Because of being cut off from her shadow, September was able to talk with the half-people and discover who her other half really was, and her discovery did not include her shadow! That heartless part of her was gone, flitting around in the river. And the Marquess flips the concept around because great magic is really great wisdom and the Marquess uses it for her personal gain.

One of the greatest chapters took place in the Autumn wood, where everyone met their own death, even the Key. The sword, which was, uh, the key to victory, was only acquired by passing through death. And it changed depending on the one taking it up. The only way back to life, then, was through winter, to Mr. Map.

My favorite concept was Lye, who spoke more truth than anyone, and the soap bathes where she had to give of herself to clean travelers to Pandemonium. September remembered something she said later, which enabled her to build her ship:
“Even if you’ve taken off every stitch of clothing, you still have your secrets, your history, your true name. It’s hard to be really naked. You have to work hard at it. Just getting into a bath isn’t being naked, not really. It’s just showing skin. And foxes and bears have skin, too, so I shan’t be ashamed if they’re not!”
Lye’s baths were for washing up Courage, Wishes, & Luck. This is what she says about Courage:
“When you were born, your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish… but as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things… and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. So every once in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the works going again or else you’ll never be brave again.”
When she cleaned up September’s Luck, it was my turn to shudder,
“luck can be spent like money; and lost, like memory; and wasted, like a life… luck withered by conservative, tired, riskless living can be plumped up again – after all, it was only a bit thirsty for something to do.”
Ok, that part was cool. My shuddering came from this thought,
“No bath can replenish luck that has been… lost through overconfidence.”
Lol. That would be me in real life right now, a little low on luck having risked it a little too much too recently. Ugh. How did anyone know to put that so innocently in a bathtub?

Everything inanimate had purpose and character, including the completely inanimate shoe that got left behind. The Marquess’ shoes were hard to let go of, even though September knew they were either very bad, very, very bad or downright deadly. She didn’t want to go barefoot. How hard is it sometimes to let go of things we know are bad?!

The green jacket was forever amazing, forever trying hard to please and so happy to be of any kind of service. I think I grew to love that jacket as much as I loved A Through L. The Key, oh, man, the hard-working key that lingers in the video like it’s got such great purpose! It’s so huge-hearted, so persistent and unquitting, even facing it’s own death in the Autumn forest!! What a key!! Besides setting everything free, I might have missed the significance there. Then there’s a Lantern – it’s only 112 years old, so it’s been alive as long as September and so willing to try adventures.

Then we come to September’s dear friends, her real heart, Ell & Saturday. Golly-goodness, Ell is such a great character, the sort of friend anyone would want to have, wishing September the best at every turn and helping where he could help and cheering her on where he couldn’t and being patient when that was his only choice. I seriously love the Wyverary. And Saturday, my, my, my. He’s a quiet one in whom
“the sea is always roaring. Always at high tide.”
September happened to see his parents married in a breaking news real, because Marid’s live all at once, meeting up with their children quite unexpectedly.

And I don’t want to say any more because I was wonderfully surprised by the ending, every facet of the ending was perfect as the author turned it slowly to see it from all it’s different angles. There’s no expectations in this book, met or unmet, because it’s all a sudden fall into a deep well. Except that some things lost are not retrieved even when other lost things are, like the lonely shoe.

En fin... I LOVED this book. So much.
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LibraryThing member callmecayce
My sister recommended this book to me and it was truly fantastic. The story was strong, the characters were strong -- especially the main character and the whole book was just an extremely rewarding read. I love every moment of the book up to and including the resolution at the end. In some ways,
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it was just a simple, lovely fairy tale but at the same time there was a twist of reality -- it's the sort of fairy tale that all tweens dream about (boys and girls). It was fun, but it was more than that. It was thoughtful and clever, it was funny and sweet and it was also a tiny bit heartbreaking -- which is just how I like my books, to be honest. It was, of course, a J Fiction book, but it's a wonderful book for everyone, really.
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LibraryThing member mt256
I was super excited when this book arrived in my mailbox. I absolutely love the cover to this book. It's a beautiful jewel toned red with a picture of a dragon chained up and a girl with a huge key. This is a beautiful cover for the book.
I had watched the book trailer a few weeks back and it
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piqued my interest. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making takes place during World War II. Summer's dad gets shipped off to be a soldier while her mother works in a factory building airplane engines. Summer is utterly bored with life when the Green Wind comes to take her away on an adventure to Fairyland. Summer is eager to leave her home and her life behind with little thought.
I think this book is brilliant. I absolutely love the storyline. It has the unpredictability of Alice in Wonderland. I had no idea which way the story was headed. It also has an extraordinary cast of characters that are unforgettable. Summer is the main character in this story. She's an average twelve year old with a not so average destiny. I liked her character because she is vulnerable but wise. Along her journey she makes unusual friends but also has to learn things such as sacrifice, humility, loyalty, and perseverance to get her through Fairyland.
Overall this book is perfect for people of all ages. I would not have a problem with my kids reading this and I would even recommend it to my mother. I can't sing this books praises enough. I'm going to go as far as to say it is on my top ten favorite books this year. This is Catherynne Valente first children's novel. I really hope she writes more of them.
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LibraryThing member PhoenixFalls
Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★★
Intellectual Satisfaction: ★★★★1/2
Emotional Satisfaction: ★★★★★
Read this for: The world-building, the characters
Don't read this for: N/A*
Bechdel Test: Pass
Johnson Test: Fail
Books I was reminded of: The actual Victorian(ish) portal fantasies --
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, etc.
Will I read more by this author? See "Full Disclosure" note.

Back in 2009, Catherynne M. Valente published Palimpsest. One of that novel's main characters, a woman named November, defines herself by a 1923 novel called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, one in a series by Hortense Francis Weckweet about a little girl named September who says "Yes!" (enthusiastic consent, so to speak) to adventuring in fairyland, portal-fantasy style. That book is a through-line in November's story of helping to open up a very adult Fairyland to immigration from our world, and judging from the excerpts Valente provided it sounded delightful, full of whimsy and led by a marvelously spunky narrator.

And it didn't exist.

But one experiment in crowd-funding later, it did. Valente wrote it and posted it online; then it won the Andre Norton Award, leading to a contract with a brick-and-mortar publisher. And that resulted in the book I have in my hands right now. A book which completely satisfies all the promise implied in Palimpsest and which I can easily picture becoming a classic of children's literature.

Keeping true to what was implied about it in Palimpsest, Fairyland is set during WWI and is written in the tone of that era's children's literature. . .
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LibraryThing member Rubbah
Brilliant book. One of those stories which you constantly see compared to classics (modern and traditional)of the genre- Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Eva Ibbotson's The Secret of Platform 13- and you think it can't possibly compare. However I've read several of
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Valente's books and loved them, so I trusted in these grand claims and bought the book, and I;'m very happy I did so. It combines the best of her books. It's lyrical and poetic like 'Labyrinth' and full of great stories and unique, yet recognisable characters such as in the Orphan's Tales. Recommended for all lovers of fairytales and stories with spiritied heroines.
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LibraryThing member calmclam
September is ravished away to Fairyland by the West Wing, and has a marvelous adventure, of course. Hints of Baum, Lewis, Barrie, and Juster. Valente knows her fairyland tropes and uses them charmingly. Highly recommended.




(918 ratings; 4.1)
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