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

Valente, Catherynne M. (Book - 2011 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making

Item Details

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.
Authors: Valente, Catherynne M., 1979-
Title: The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making
Published: New York : Feiwel and Friends, 2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
Characteristics: 247 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.
Summary: 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.
Local Note: 1
Additional Contributors: Juan, Ana
ISBN: 0312649614
Branch Call Number: YA VAL
Statement of Responsibility: by Catherynne Valente ; with illustrations by Ana Juan
Genre/Form: Fantasy fiction.
LCCN: 2010050895
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Aug 07, 2013
  • artemishi rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is one of those rare books that defies genre. Is it a children's book, or an adult's book posing as a children's book? The answer is yes.

In the style of Alice in Wonderland, this book is delightfully convention-defying. At its self-aware surface, it's a story of one girl's adventures in fairyland.
But every action and observation holds a deeper truth about growing up, growing older, becoming yourself...and its the darker, heart-breaking truths. Still, with all its delightful prose, these dark truths don't make the story depressing, they just add depth.

This story plays on well-known fairytales (the Grimm's version, not the Disney version, thankfully). The main character, September, is an excellent role model for a young girl, without the story seeming to be preachy. I don't have children of my own, but I think this story would be delightful for both adults and children...especially read to children by their parents.

The book also contains whimsical little drawings that match the action of the story. I like the style of the drawings, though I felt there should have been more of them.

I am definitely going to read the sequel, and I recommend this to the young, young at heart, fans of whimsy and fairytales, fans of strong female characters, and those who appreciate the tongue-in-cheek.

Jun 22, 2013
  • Yahong_Chi rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It takes a while to adjust to Catherynne Valente's writing style; it's rather full of Things that Are Capitalized, and random phrases like "Good-bye, shoe! September will miss you soon." Once you get into the flow of things, though, the writing helps establish the otherworldly, whimsical yet ominous atmosphere of the fantasy land. It's isn't without its faults, but it's perfectly bearable. The characters and how they interact with each other are also influenced by the writing style: September, if taken out of context, wouldn't sound like any normal twelve-year-old; but in the story, she sounds her age. And the trio of friends is wonderfully charming; their interactions become each of their individual personalities (...but I hold a special place in my heart for the Wyverary). The one major bend in the plot helps to keep the pace going, as the settings change and the faces around September grow baleful. It all wraps up neatly, but the idea of circumstance versus The Chosen One seems rather unresolved and undecided; in contrast, the theme of moving on versus staying still is well-developed. The ending is bittersweet, hopeful and surpising all at once, and definitely w ill springboard readers to the sequel (also of amibitous title, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There).

May 14, 2013
  • JCLAmyF rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Favorite things: the narrator addresses the reader occasionally, the protagonist is aware she's in a fairy story, and the chapters all have a "...in which..." subheading.

Mar 28, 2013
  • bwortman rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I fell in love with this book from the opening page. A brilliant and complex fairytale, Valente weaves a narrative reminiscent of some of my favourite classic children's books, Peter Pan and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The language is rich and beautiful, effortlessly creating fantastic images, delightful dialogue, and establishing a narrative voice that's thoroughly charming. And speaking of charming, September is a delightful heroine to follow as she encounters an amazing cast of characters that it is impossible not to love. The illustrations heading up each chapter are also a delight and bring Fairyland to life with grace and detail. A great fairytale for those full of heart or, like our heroine, September, the somewhat heartless.

Mar 04, 2013
  • JCLJoshN rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An absolutely wonderful fairy tale fantasy in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland, the Oz books, and The Phantom Tollbooth. Cat Valente's story doesn't condescend to children or adults. It's smart, funny, thrilling, enchanting and surreal.

Dec 21, 2012
  • iicydiamonds rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

As an adult I may not be the target audience for this book, but I still greatly enjoyed it! It's fun and whimsical. A wonderful choice for a time when you want to escape the real world and spend some time in "what if".

Nov 11, 2012
  • styellow rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I read this book with my 8 year old son. While this was a tough read for him, with lots of new words and complex sentence structure, he hung in there because the story is so good. The story is not fast moving, but does progress at a good pace, with lots of mystery and it is funny too. There is lots of adventure and magic, and good vs evil. Plus, it is written beautifully.

Nov 06, 2012
  • gvlee rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Both my 10 year old daughter and I tried this. It didn't appeal to her. I found it long on whimsy and short on plot. Didn't engage me.

Oct 11, 2012
  • Caroline1731 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I decided to read this book because I saw Catherynne Valente read an excerpt from the sequel to this book and speak about being a female fantasy author at a panel hosted by the New York Public Library this past Spring. "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland" is very reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz" in that a young girl enters a fantastical realm, contends with a malevolent sorceress, and acquires various fantastical friends who help her on her journey through Fairyland. The strength of Valente's story comes from her unexpected ideas (the cloth city, the wild bicycles) but her description of these things are sometimes weak and hard to visualize. Thus, it wasn't as engrossing as it could have been. I also felt that the story was weakened by the lack of "rules" in Fairy Land. With an "anything goes" mentality, there are no stakes or logic to add momentum and coherency. The protagonist, September, is a modern girl though who sometimes has to kill her food to eat, wrestle someone to win, and build a boat herself. She's an inspiring character and I admire the way Valente portrayed complex gender roles throughout. The book ends with some intriguing unresolved issues so I will read the sequel but I'll save it for a slow phase when I've run out of other things to read.

Oct 09, 2012
  • Cdnbookworm rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This children's novel attracted me by the title, but that is just a couple of chapters of the story. September is the name of the girl, and when asked by the Green Wind if she wants to go to Fairyland, she doesn't hesitate. The time is World War II (although not stated explicitly) and her father is off in Europe where the war is, while her mother builds airplane engines. September is quite handy herself, as she proves along the way.
Getting into Fairyland isn't as easy as she thinks, and she finds that there is more than one way of doing it. Once she arrives, she finds that Fairyland itself has undergone a few changes, and the one in charge seems to be a bit of a tyrant, especially compared to the previous well-loved Queen Mallow.
This book talks about losing one's heart and the tendency towards heartlessness in many children, but also the changes that take place as one gets to care about others. September is an adventurous child, but also one who is willing to make friends and take care of those she believes deserve it. She is a good judge of character, and not as heartless as she thinks.
From soap sculpture characters to large dragon-like creatures, from sea creatures to walking lanterns, September finds many interesting friends along her journey. Her actions will bind her to Fairyland in a way she never imagined.
I particularly loved the Wyverary, a creature whose mother was a Wyvern and whose father was a Library. His knowledge is limited to A to L, but very useful still. September herself likes words, and is a reader who "liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying."
The Fairyland portrayed here is an interesting one, with certain rules, places that move around, and dangerous forests. A great place for an adventure for a young girl with an attitude.

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Jul 12, 2014
  • akhansen25 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

akhansen25 thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

green_bear_838 thinks this title is suitable for 7 years and over

Aug 12, 2013
  • white_dolphin_39 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

white_dolphin_39 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

May 14, 2013
  • JCLAmyF rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

JCLAmyF thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

Jan 18, 2013
  • regnard rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

regnard thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Jul 10, 2012
  • blue_bird_3138 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

blue_bird_3138 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

May 24, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


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May 24, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

When September is asked by The Green Wind whether or not she’d be inclined to take a trip to Fairyland with him, she’s so excited to get going that she manages to lose a shoe in the process. Like many a good reader September is inclined to think that she knows the rules of alternate worlds. Yet it doesn’t take much time before she realizes that not all things are well in the realm of magic. A strange Marquess has taken over, having defeated the previous good ruler, and before she knows it September is sent to try to retrieve a spoon from the all powerful villain. Along the way she befriends a Wyvern who is certain that his father was a library, and a strange blue Marid boy named Saturday who can grant you a wish, but only if you defeat him in a fight. With their help, Saturday realizes what it means to lose your heart within the process of becoming less heartless.


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May 14, 2013
  • JCLAmyF rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble."

May 24, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

“Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of 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.”

May 24, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

[The town] “was as though the witch who built the gingerbread house in the story had a great number of friends and decided to start up a collective.”


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May 24, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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

Trailer for Valente's book with original song.

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