Review by Shellie of ~ The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making ~ by Catherynne M. Valente (illustrated by Ana Juan)
A sweet and whimsical tale with images of strength, valor and courage. It’s a poetic and fantastical hero's journey especially for girls (and some boys too!)
About: September is twelve and like many children of that age she is bored and confused about life; feeling stifled by her chores - especially washing the household’s flowery china teacups. It does not help that Dad is off fighting for the country and mom is working in the war efforts; tough times for a young girl, creating the natural desire to escape the perceived drudgery which is normal for all youngsters of that age.
In her imaginings of something beyond her regular world she is visited by a Green Wind in a smoking jacket and whisked off to Fairyland. There she looses her heart and a shoe while meeting a variety of diverse fairies and fantastical creatures, while learning a thing or two about herself, the true meaning of friendship, and what is truly important in life.
Thoughts: With whimsical and imaginative prose akin to poetry (Catherynne Valente has an unusual grasp of language and is actually a poet), the book has meanderings with deeper archetypal and metaphorical threads creating a story that has wording that is often like a poem.
Contrastingly the story has “real life” issues placed strategically in it, where the main character faces tough situations which are not glazed over or skirted. There are sections which touched me deeply, creating a giggle or a heart-tug from September’s experiences.
Perhaps seen as an introduction to fairy lore for the uninitiated, or a revisit for the more advanced reader, the book contains many different fantastical creatures. Since I have never heard of a Dryad, Spriggans, Pukas, Marids, and perhaps a Golem, it was a lesson for me. There is an intriguing theory around the evolution of fairies – from frogs; which I liked so much. (Macmillan has a downloadable document; a bestiary for the book which is lovely and amusing.)
Will tweens and teens like it? I think most will. However, as one of the “uninitiated” adults (I have not read a lot about fairies), I found the text esoteric in areas - which may have changed since it I read the book in an arc format. So I would recommend it for precocious youngsters beyond their reading level (due to its vocabulary – check out widdershins!), older tweens and teens, children well versed in fairytales and their language, or to teachers and parents to read out loud to students or children. I would have loved having this read out loud to me as a youngster.
As a story for most age levels, it is a tale about fairies with old fashioned yet relevant ideals which may help solidify and reestablish it - strong girls/children become strong women/adults; perseverance does make a difference; and one’s home is the best place to be (mostly). I loved this whimsical and special book and rated it 4 stars.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making ~ Young Adult - Grade Range: 5 to 9, Age Range: 10 to 14 ; Hardcover: 256 pages; Feiwel & Friends (May 10, 2011) For some brief information link to see our preview for it. US|UK|Canada.
Catherynne M. Valente ~ is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, and is best-known for her urban speculative fiction. This, her first novel for young readers, was posted online in 2009 and won the Andre Norton Award. Cat Valente lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, and an enormous cat.
Ana Juan ~ is a world-renowned illustrator known in this country for her wonderful covers for the New Yorker magazine, as well as the children's books The Night Eater, and Frida, written by Jonah Winter. She lives in Spain.
More fun stuff:
- Cat Valente will also be touring the Western states in the next several months and will be at BEA. Check out her schedule at the Macmillan site.
- The best is the book’s trailer – it is short and sweet with lofty and whimsical music and illustrations. Highly recommended 1 1/2 minute of your time!
- You can purchase it’s music for $1 dollar at ~ S. J. Tucker’s site where they have other fun tunes to sample. If you have a few minutes it is well worth your time. (I am thinking to buy one album for a post birthday present.)
This book will be included is a variety of challenges – The Basic Challenge; I think it may fit into the Myth Challenge. (Text links to our current challenge list if you are interested or want to join.)
Thanks for reading!