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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making Paperback – May 8, 2012

307 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Fairyland Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011: Bibliophilic wyverns, enchanted woods, an evil Marquess, a magical talisman, dwarven customs agents, djinns, velocipedes--and that doesn't even take into account what's in the title of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. A fantastical tale that's somewhere between Lewis Carroll and Terry Pratchett, Cathrynne Valente's book follows twelve-year-old September, a girl from Omaha, Nebraska, who finds herself whisked away by a fast-talking gentleman called the Green Wind to the world of Fairyland where she has to retrieve a witch's spoon from the fickle Marquess. Still, Cathrynne Valente's imaginative cast of characters and spirited prose turn what could be a standard heroine-on-a-quest story into something on par with the best (and weirdest) classics. --Darryl Campbell

A Look at Ana Juan's Illustrations for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Exeunt on a Leopard The Wyverary
Thy Mother's Sword One Hundred Years Old

Amazon Exclusive: Cory Doctorow Reviews The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Cory Doctorow is a co-editor of the popular weblog BoingBoing and the author of Little Brother, Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, and several other books.

Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: sweet fairytale, shot through with salty tears -- magic!

Feiwel & Friends has done the world an enormous service by putting The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente's extraordinary, award-winning, free web-novel, between covers. What's more, they've augmented it with Ana Juan's wonderful illustrations, one for every chapter.

Fairyland is a book that is both deeply in love with fairy tales and sharply critical of them: the story of September, a girl who flies from her dreary and sad life in Nebraska to Fairyland on the Green Wind. In Fairyland, she meets every sort of wonderful mythical beast (including a wyvern that's half library), eats the most wonderful and strange things, and has the most wonderful and extraordinary adventures and quests. And it really is wonderful: whimsical and lyrical and shot through with an imagination that simultaneously renders the traditional furniture of fairy tales fresh, and manages to make the author's own inventions seem as mythic as the first story told in the first cave in front of the first fire.

But Valente's fairytale broods and seethes, and it is not always such a nice place. For every velocipede herd thundering across the plain, ridden by a marvelous fairy in aviator's leathers and jodhpurs, there's a whipped blue water-djinn who bears the emotional scars of slavery. For every autumn kingdom filled with fiery sylvan alchemists, there is a political exile in the winter country, banished and sorrowing. For every brave sacrifice from September's companions, there's an abandoned soap golem that wishes the good queen would restore Fairyland to its glory.

And that's what makes Valente's work so truly fairytale fantastic: the sense that the magic sweetness is alloyed with a pinch of salty tears that makes it all so flavorful and complex, a wonder streaked with anxiety. So as September embarks on her quest to topple the evil Marquess who is bent on remaking Fairyland so that it is as dull and regimented as Omaha, Nebraska, we cheer her on, fear for her, and wonder, a little, if she might not be on the wrong side of the war.

Valente's lyrical fairytale is billed as a young adult novel, but like all the very best young adult novels, this is a book that can (and should be!) enjoyed by grown ups too.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale, done with heart and wisdom.” ―Neil Gaiman, Newbery Award–winning author of The Graveyard Book

“September is a clever, fun, stronghearted addition to the ranks of bold, adventurous girls. Valente's subversive storytelling is sheer magic.” ―Tamora Pierce, author of The Immortals series

“A mad, toothsome romp of a fairy tale--full of oddments, whimsy, and joy.” ―Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles

“When I saw that this book reminds me simultaneously of E. Nesbit, James Thurber, and the late Eva Ibbotson, I don't mean to take anything away from its astonishing originality. It's a charmer from the first page, managing the remarkable parlay of being at once ridiculously funny and surprisingly suspenseful. Catherynne Valente is a find, at any age!” ―Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn

“This is a kind of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by way of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--it's the sort of book one doesn't want to end.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[Fairyland creates] a world as bizarre and enchanting as any Wonderland or Oz and a heroine as curious, resourceful and brave as any Alice or Dorothy. Complex, rich and memorable.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This book is quite simply a gold mine.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Amusing, wrenching, and thought-provoking.” ―The Horn Book


Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Series: Fairyland (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250010195
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250010193
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Catherynne M. Valente is an author, poet, and sometime critic who has been known to write as many as six impossible things before breakfast. She is to blame for over a dozen works of fiction and poetry, including The Orphan's Tales, Palimpsest, Deathless, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She has won the Tiptree Award, the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award, the Lambda Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Million Writers Award for best web fiction. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, an enormous cat, and a slightly less enormous accordion.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

266 of 293 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Well devil if I know what to do with it.

Never complain that you are bored, ladies and gentlemen. Say such a thing and you might find that the universe has a couple tricks up its sleeve. Let's say, for example, that a certain children's librarian was getting bored with the state of fantasy today. Maybe she read too many Narnia rip-offs where a group of siblings get plunged into an alternate world to defeat a big bad blah blah blah. Maybe she read too many quest novels where plucky young girls have to save their brothers/friends/housepets. So what does the universe do? Does it say, "Maybe you should try something other than fantasy for a change"? It does not. Instead it hands the children's librarian a book with a title like "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" and (if she hasn't hyperventilated after reading the title) says to her, "Here you go, smart guy. Try this on for size." That's what being cocky will get you. It'll have you reading a book that walks up to the usual middle grade chapter book fantasy tropes and slaps 'em right smack dab in the face. I have never, in all my livelong days, read a book quite like Catherynne Valente's. My job now is to figure out whether that is a good thing, or very very bad.

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.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Rover on November 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The success of this reexploration of childhood - cleverly disguised as a simple book - in your personal library will completely depend on the mood that you embrace as you embark upon this literary journey into a Fairyland that we have never seen but edgewise on a windy Thursday morning in April.

And if the previous sentence annoyed you, this book is a total loss.

I promise you that your mood and reasoning will make or break the experience. The characters are fun, but very close to an Alice in Wonderland presentation of Fairyland as seen through The Phantom Tollbooth. The heroes are loveable, the villains wicked, and the adventures easily broken into chapters for bedtime reading. The two plot devices handed to the heroine at the beginning do contribute cheerfully to the very satisfying ending. On the other hand, you absolutely HAVE to embrace the absurd and illogical in complete acceptance or this book will be nothing but frustrating at every single plot turn. So would I recommend it? Absolutely yes, and definitely not. Your mileage WILL vary.
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48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Lauren "365 Days of Reading" on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
SUMMARY: One day, a bored girl named September is whisked off to Fairyland by the Green Wind and finds herself confronting the Marquess, an irritable, jaded young woman who is in need of something only September can retrieve. As September journeys through Fairyland, she finds that things are not all sunshine and lollipops, and she ends up making sacrifices, stumbling into life-threatening situations, and meeting many odd creatures.

MY THOUGHTS: Wow. If there's ever a word to describe Catherynne Valente's writing, it's luscious. It flows so gracefully, and has little nuances that make the reader smile, or giggle to herself, and it's probably of the best quality I've ever read in a young adult or middle grade novel. It's simply gorgeous. (I was so enthralled with the writing that I actually wanted to seek out someone to whom I could read--the book just begs to be read aloud.)

Fairyland reads just like a fairytale of old--it's understandable and enjoyable for children, but adolescents and adults will most appreciate its subtle complexity. Almost every chapter brings a new adventure or acquaintance for September, but the story still manages to remain continuous. September's travels are never boring, and neither are the odd characters she meets (my favorite of which is A-Through-L, a Wyvern-Library crossbreed).

September is a spunky, lovable protagonist who portrays characteristics that any young girl could look up to--she's brave but not egocentric, intelligent but not without naiveté, and very logical. September grows significantly throughout the novel, and it's a joy reading about her adventures.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making will enchant all readers, be they young or old. It has a timeless quality to it, and could easily be read over and over again. Highly recommended!
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82 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Artemis on February 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really wanted to love this book but I just found the story line to be lackluster in its objective and the language a bit pretentious for "young readers" until...maybe the last 50 pages. Because I run book fairs at our local elementary school, I preview a lot of elementary school level children's books. I am always looking for books to give as gifts for the kids in my life. Since I am limited to the variety of books at the book fairs, I get many books from Amazon. I was immediately intrigued by the reviews of The Girl Who... as I was looking for a great fantasy fiction depicting a strong female character for my preteen nieces. From the reviews, it looked like this was the book to get. In addition, the title of the book peaked my curiousity and the wonderful illustrations were also quite capitvating. Unfortunately, after finally getting through this book, I must say that I was somewhat disappointed and thought I should write a review for those adults who might mistakenly get this book for a young reader based on the high accolades of the other reviewers.

This book is listed for readers aged 10+, I find it difficult to recommend this book for a young reader less than 14 or 15 years old. While exuberantly written (and often way overdone), the prose is based on concepts that are, I believe, far beyond the life experiences or understanding of young girls to even grasp the ideas that the author is trying to convey. Even above average 12 year old would find it difficult to envision someone wearing a smoking jacket, carriage-driver's cloak and jodhpurs. In addition, it might be unlikely that an average young reader understand the concepts of "diplomatic immunity" and "These laws are sacrosanct, except for visiting dignitaries..." or know what the word "exeunt" might mean.
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