Review 254. Catherynne M. Valente – The girl who circumnavigated fairyland.

9591398Title: The girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making.
Author: Catherynne M. Valente.
Pages: 247.
Published: May 10th 2011 by Feiwel & Friends.
Sort: Fairyland #1.
Source: Sinterklaas present from Judith!
Link: Goodreads.
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.
Rating:

This was such an unique book! It has a whimsical writing-style; one I’ve never seen before. The cover is gorgeous and there are adorable illustrations at the beginning of every chapter. It’s a magical tale filled with adventure and interesting characters.

It definitely took a while to get used to the writing-style. The sentences are long and filled with details. Catherynne has a special choice of words and it gives this book a fairytale-esque feeling. I don’t think this is something everyone will like, but if you give this book some time, I’m sure you will be wrapped into the story. Here is an example:

“One ought not to judge her: all children are Heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb high trees and say shocking things and leap so very high grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. But, as in their reading and arithmetic and drawing, different children proceed at different speeds. (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.) Some small ones are terrible and fey, Utterly Heartless. Some are dear and sweet and Hardly Heartless At All. September stood very generally in the middle on the day the Green Wind took her, Somewhat Heartless, and Somewhat Grown.”

It also surprised me that this book is targeted as MG, because I think it's a little difficult for younger children to read such a book. Perhaps read it together with them, because it's quite a challenge if you let them have this adventure on their own.

The story is filled with all these magical creatures in a fun setting; Fairyland. There is a Wyvern
who is one of September’s new best friends, there is a golem made out of soap and witches. They are all fleshed out and make a colorful cast. The funny thing is that my favourite character isn’t September. Yes, she is a wonderful, young girl who is ready for adventure. She is brave and a clever little girl, but the Wyvern A-through-L stole the spotlight for me. I think it’s because of his passion for words! There is also a good villain present. The Marquess provides an interesting story and I liked her background. Villains with depth are always more interesting than plain evil ones.

I very much look forward to more adventures from September in Fairyland, because her one time visit has turned out into something more.

37 comments

  1. I got this book a while ago, well like 2 years ago, and I started reading it and never finished. It was when I first started really getting into reading and buying books so I think b/c I had books coming in the mail almost weekly, took my focus off the book. I need to dig it out from by bookcase and give it a read. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that I have this book and need to finish it LOL
    xoxo Michelle @Book Hangovers

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  2. Might be a bit whimsical for me. I'm glad you liked it, though. :)

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    1. This book is definitely not everyone's taste!

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  3. I was so charmed by this one, the writing and the visuals and the fantasy. I thought it had a really unique whimsical thing going on, sort of a new Alice in Wonderland with all the crazy characters and creatures. Glad you enjoyed this one, too!

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    1. Agreed, it did have that strange Alice on Wonderland feeling.

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  4. I have been meaning to read more MG, and this one is def on my to-read list. Sounds enchanting, despite the overload of description. I hope when I get to it it doesn't bother me too much, I had the same issue with the LoTR trilogy. I ended up listening to all three books and found them to be way more more enjoyable. Great review!

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    1. It took me some time, but I ended up really liking it :)

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  5. I can see what you mean by it might be difficult for some young readers but I think this would have been the perfect book for me as a child because when I was 7 I was already diving into books like Little Women. I do think reading this aloud to a child would be absolute fun and I plan to when my kid!

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    1. I think it really depends on the child! :) But when I look at the general age target, this might be a little too difficult for them on their own.

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  6. Adorable illustrations? YES PLEASE. I adore the cover as well :) I'm glad you liked this book, Mel. <3 But sorry you didn't love it. Amazing review. Thank you for sharing. <3 I think it sounds like an adorable book. But agh. I think I would have a lot of issues with that writing :\

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  7. I've not heard of this one, but it sounds pretty interesting. I've not read a book like this in quite some time :) Great review!

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  8. I love this book too! I didn't like Valente's writing at all because it was a bit hard to read sometimes, but by the end I absolutely love it! She is so smart at using her words and there are so much wisdom hiding under each line. Can't wait to go on more journeys with her and September :)

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    1. I had the same, it takes some time to get 'used' to it!

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  9. OMG EEYORE! Sooo cute, he's my favourite! I've heard a lot about the whimsical, fairy tale like story this is and it sounds really wonderful. Thanks for reviewing hun!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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  10. That Eeyore is the CUTEST. ANd I've always wanted to read this but now you've cinched it!

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  11. It definitely LOOKS like a unique book. So cute! Okay, I don't read MG, but I think I'll HAVE to so I can read this one. It sounds adorable and I already want to hug the characters. Love the review, Mel, I think you're going to convert me a bit!

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    1. I think, with that more difficult writing style, this might appeal to readers who don't read many MG! :)

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  12. I adored this one but like you, it did take me a bit to get used to the writing style. It's very poetic and lyrical...I find it hard to believe that young children would get the full sense of all the beauty and lessons brought forth by Catherynne M. Valente but I was absolutely enamoured with the entire thing! I can't wait to start book two, which I'm planning to do soon. Wonderful review Mel, I can't wait to chat about September's next adventures with you :-)

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    1. That's why I think reading together would make this a fantastic journey :D

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  13. I've seen this one around with some really positive reviews, but I didn't think it was for me, I guess? I might have to change my mind, though. This is exactly the kind of book I would've loved when I was younger, and that bit you quoted kind of reminded me of Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (I've not read anything else of hers, shame on me!) and I loved that. I can see why the whimsical style would be hard to get into, but I bet it's so fun to read. :)

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    1. That's also the only book I've read from Dianna - and only for the first time this year :p

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  14. I've been looking forward to reading this book and for some reason I keep putting it off. Love that you reviewed this :D And I think children can read this if stimulated with language enough, they are able to use tablets nowadays anyway. ♥

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  15. I love illustrations in books! But I think this one would take some work to read, I had to read that passage twice for it to really sink in hah. But I sometimes love writing like that, and how it adds to the feel of the whole book :)

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    1. This is the type of book you need to read slowly before it all sinks in :D

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  16. I love how whimsical this book sounds! I won copies of the first three books in this series, and I've been meaning to read them for a while after reading so many positive reviews. And your review (and the quote you provided) makes me even more convinced that I'll love this series. It sounds sort of fairy-tale esque and sort of like Alice in Wonderland. And just so very different. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one so much! I hope you get to the sequel soon!

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    1. I'm happy I could help :D! I hope you enjoy them.

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  17. Wow, that sample you provided was very whimsical indeed - I lost my trail of thought. I can see this being suited for MG because of the "on and on" nature of it, but still - it is something that would take a while to grapple. And you are most definitely right about villians with depth being the best.

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  18. I loved the unusual language and use of words in this, but it was also no doubt easier for me as I listened to it on audio, and the flow was just beautiful- I haven't read the book yet, though I plan to, and will no doubt read the rest of them since the narrator changed, but hearing it read aloud it just moves so exquisitely.
    One of the things I love about this book is how it's so versatile in age-groups; sure, it might be marketed towards mg, but it's also suitable to adults and young adults and anyone in between- skipping some of the scarier scenes, it could be a lovely bedtime story, too.

    Beautiful review, Mel- I'm thrilled to see you've now read this and loved reading your thoughts!

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    1. Ahh, I'm not a fan of audio books, but this could work great on audio!

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    2. It worked so well with this- the author actually read it, too, so it just all went together beautifully.

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  19. Looking forward to reading this book! I've had it on my shelf for a while now and I should really get around to reading it, haha

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  20. Wonderful review Mel <3 The diction in that excerpt is so lovely so thanks for sharing it with us. Happy to hear that this one was such a unique and magical read. Sometimes, it's so nice to find a unique book :) it's like a breeze of fresh air.

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