The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Catherynne M. Valente (Ana Juan, Illustrator)
Feiwel & Friends: 2011

This book was weird. Please don't get me wrong: I liked it, I really did. And when it ended, I wanted just a little bit more. But the whole time I was reading, somewhere in the back part of my mind, I was thinking This book is really weird.

Weirdness aside, it was a fun, quirky read, though not entirely what I expected. I imagined it'd be something a bit lighter, a bit more fairyland-ish. September, our fearless, almost heartless, heroine, is a spunky 12 years old - but she possess a wise naivete that is beyond her years (if that makes sense). While this is cataloged as a YA book at my library, and slated as a tween-age book, it really read more like an adult story. I had a hard time reading it as a younger read - honestly, while I think high schoolers could appreciate it (provided they aren't in that Stage where they can't be seen reading a book about a middleschooler), I felt like it'd be beyond anyone younger. There are parts they'd definitely appreciate: September meets some amazing and fantastic characters on her jaunt through and around Fairyland, and there are some interesting stories and scenes. But the bulk of the story? The meat and heart of it? Yeah, that's totally something you're going to pick up with distance from September's age, with the experience that comes from living - and loving - and even losing. Unlike some children's books I've read in the past that have been surprisingly dark for their young audiences -- this one I'd feel fine handing to an interested kid, but I'd wonder just how much they'd take in. Maybe I'm underestimating the younger reading audience, but that's my gut response. And I made a promise to myself to be honest when writing these reviews.

I definitely liked the book. I loved the supporting cast of characters. I could see the settings and all of September's adventures and discoveries in Fairyland. When it ended, I both craved a sequel and hoped it would not come - torn between wanting to find out if my ideas of how things worked out really do and wanting to keep my own imaginings. (Okay, sorry, that sentence feels thought-loopy, but that's kind of the way my brain felt when I finished the novel). I would recommend it to friends and fellow readers with a half-grin and the bidding to "Enjoy, and it's weird." Weird can be a good thing...

Book provided by my local library.


  1. I made the library order this after reading a rave review last spring. It's been sitting on my TBR shelf (along with some other great books I made the library order) since May. Nothing non-Austen has been read since then, basically.

    However, I've got some free time coming up and I'm looking forward to giving this one a try.

  2. Can certainly agree it isn't for the young reader just cutting their teeth on a book, but still feel it could go well for those of that age group already experiencing the "avid reader" bug. As you said, "weirdness can be good"...and this quirky book DEFINITELY has charm to spare. Loved it myself, can't wait for the next. ^_^