“Readers will always insist on adventures, and though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief.”
– Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own making
For any reader who spent their childhood (and quite possibly adulthood too) in love with The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton will know of the struggle to find any other book whose enchanting stories come close to that childhood magic. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own making by Catherynne M. Valente has an incredible magic about it and comes extremely close!
Twelve-year-old September, a slightly heartless little girl is surprised when the Green Wind and Leopard of the Little Breezes turn up at the kitchen window at her home in Omaha. They offer her an Adventure (with a capital A) to Fairyland. Who could say no to that! No Adventure would be complete without a new collection of friends, a little drama and a keen protector! September is introduced to the Marquess who sends her on a very important quest to retrieve the mysterious casket that contains a magical item that will save them all!
Everytime I see this book on my shelf I marvel at Valente’s creativity; soap golems, herds of wild bicycles and Leopards riding the breeze is all part of the magical world she has created. The story is told from an omnipotent narrator who at times interrupts the story to talk directly with the reader. It is the same kind of writing device that Marcus Zusak used in The Book Thief, a book that took me many, many attempts before I made it past the first chapter. Somehow, Valente has done it in a way that I found much easier to read! It is a book that reminds me of Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; it celebrates fairytales but does not let the reader forget how dark and gruesome they can be. Fairyland is a bit like Neverland, bright and shiny on the outside but the more you get to know it, the more you see how dangerous it really is. Like the quote above says, you cannot have adventure without grief. September’s adventure reveals the daring of youth and the magic and lure of the unknown. There are plenty of messages to be found along the way however despite the absurd and whimsical tale, Valente never lets the story become silly, and the messages don’t lose their meaning. It is a search for self-identity, a tale of slavery and a glimpse into the corruptive nature of too much power!
It may be a story for children but like all great tales, there is plenty for readers of all ages! The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making is a fabulous romp of a read that will definitely leave you wanting more!