The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

 9/2/2012 – This enchanting little book begins with a girl named September, who was born in May, has a mole on her left cheek, and whose feet are large and ungainly (page 1). She is whisked away by the Green Wind, upon the Leopard of Little Breezes, one evening just after her twelfth birthday. The Green Wind is taking her to Fairyland, a place fraught with wonders, rules, and dangers of its own.

Valente’s writing is sweet and engrossing, her metaphors darling and whimsical. I love the Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L (the son of a dragon familiar to a “most puissant Scientiste” and illustrious Library) and his knowledge of all things alphabetical (well, at least the first 42% of it anyway). So far, my favorite part of the book is the House Without Warning, a bath house that one must pass through before entering, or even nearing the Fairyland capital city of Pandemonium.

The House Without Warning springs up wherever it is needed, with its faithful tender Lye. Lye will take you along gently and wash everything that’s important: your courage, your wishes, and your luck. All those things that one never thinks about but that need to be washed and lightened from the gunk, cares, and dust of the world from time to time. I loved the imagery of this chapter, the idea (and gentle reminder) that these unseen parts of one’s soul are just as important and in need of cleansing and care as one’s skin and clothing was especially poignant to me right now as I face the major life change of becoming a mother in a few months.

I look forward to continuing this book and finding more and more to love about Valente’s work and to falling deeper into the throes of her wonderful writing.

10/2/12/ –Favorite quote thus far:

“Perhaps it was Lye’s bath, but she [September] felt quite bold and intrepid and, having paid her own way, quite grown-up. This inevitably leads to disastrous decisions, but September could not know that, not when the sun was so very bright and the river so blue. Let us allow her these new, strange pleasures.


Very well, but I have tried to be a generous narrator and care for my girl as best I can. I cannot help that readers will always insist on adventures, and though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief. (page 68)”

I love this because, as a writer, it is often not my readers who insist on adventures and turmoil for my characters but rather the characters themselves forge ahead when I am trying to protect them and keep them safe. They insist on their own adventures and, thus, their own grief. It is just incredible fun to see another author utilize this reality of outside (or inside) forces upon our characters’ paths and decisions.

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