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

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Hardcover, 247 pgs.
Published: May 10th, 2011 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Purchased

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.

I got this as a read aloud to my 7 year old and was a bit concerned because it’s about a 12 year old girl.  However, I needn’t have been concerned as it had a bit of a younger feel to it.  The main character seemed much younger than 12 to me, actually.  And while there were a few darker subjects introduced it wasn’t anything my daughter hadn’t already seen on TV.  I think that I may have skipped a few parts that I just didn’t want to have to explain (she’s very curious about death at this age) but I probably didn’t really need to.

This was a perfect read-aloud.  I was completely captivated by the beauty of the world and words that the author used.  While some are much too big for a young child to understand (or even a 30 year old woman πŸ˜‰ it was forgivable because it just fit the story so beautifully.  It had this flow to it that had me wanting to read, to see more of the world and meet these unique and strange characters.  Reading a chapter each night was hard, I wanted to secret the book away and devour it.  However, I think this book was maybe even better for me because I was reading it aloud.  It’s hard to explain, but I think we digest things a bit differently from when we read them in our head and when we hear them.  Even when it’s ourselves reading it and not someone else.  You know what I mean?  And I’m discovering there are some fabulous middle grade books that work very well as read alouds and that I enjoy more hearing it, rather then reading it in my head.  They are often whimsical fantasy’s.  I’m just falling in love reading whimsical fantasy books to my kids. 

I feel like I could go on and on talking about the beauty and flow of the words and uniqueness of it all, but I think you get it.  So all I will leave you with is this:  This is a fabulous book and you really should give it a try!  (And I think it would be a fabulous audio book as well!)

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  1. So glad you enjoyed this, Candace! I recently read this and and I really liked it – the premise is very whimsical! I agree that the writing is absolutely beautiful, Valente writes like a dream!

    Fab review, Candace :)

  2. I haven’t heard too much about this one so thanks for the review Candace! I love a beautifully written and unique story (who doesn’t?) so I’ll have to look into this one:) Love the cover too, I’m a sucker for dragons!

  3. Wonderful review! I’m glad this one worked for you AND your daugther. I’m very curious to check it out. It sounds like a fun read. And I know what you mean about reading things aloud…it does give you a new sense of the story.


  4. I saw this on another blog a couple of weeks ago and it sounds like fun. I am looking forward to the reading aloud days with my monkeys. Getting a huge response for Girl of Nightmares. It should be sending followers to NNN!

  5. Candace-

    I’ve been wanting to read this one since it came out last year. It’s gotten so many great reviews.

    I know what you mean about reading it aloud as opposed to yourself. Some books, with the way the words flow, just sound better aloud. I loved reading the Harry Potter books out loud to my kids. They stuck in my mind, felt a little more magical, even to this day. Keep reading aloud to them hopefully they’ll grow up to be readers!


  6. Looking at this book, reading your review, I know I would have loved this as a child. LOVED it. I wish I had a kid to share books with, because honestly, reading out loud sounds like so much fun!

  7. I own this book! I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! I love stories that have a consistent flow to them. Glad you enjoyed reading this one to you daughter. I can’t wait to have kids so I can do just that. πŸ˜‰

  8. Oh wow! πŸ˜€ This sounds like so much fun! I’m a bit skeptical as to whether or not I’ll enjoy it, but I’m definitely going to give it a try, anyways. πŸ˜‰

    Great review!

    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

  9. I’ve heard really good things about this book. I think the main thing that’s kept me from reading it is the middle grade label. I just feel wayyy too old to read something designated for a middle grade audience. But your reading it aloud to your daughter gave me an idea. Maybe I’ll read it with my little sister, or use it as a point of discussion with her. Or maybe I’ll just get over my middle grade stigma. Everyone does say it’s a great read.

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