READ THIS BOOK!
No, seriously, this book is every fairy tale and children's story and sad and happy and thrilling and scary Disney movie you ever saw, back when you were young enough for Disney movies to be taken at face value and you hadn't learned how to be cynical yet. Catherynne Valente writes with beautiful fairy tale prose that still sounds contemporary, and she balances the zaniness and fantasy of a down-the-rabbit-hole adventure with the darkness of true fairy tales and the lurking shadow of adulthood that only the finest children's authors can blend into a children's story without turning it either absurd or rendering it into something clever, something maybe even fun, but not quite timeless. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
is a story that should become immortal. It should join Alice in Wonderland
and The Wizard of Oz
and The Chronicles of Narnia
on the shelf of books for Every Child in the World.
I don't read much YA, and I read very little MG fiction, but this book won my heart and turned me into that 10-year-old who knew he was reading something wonderful again. If you have kids, read this to them, and if you don't, read it for yourself, because it's clever and subtle enough that even adults will find their hearts touched.The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
begins with an ordinary 12-year-old girl named September who is taken by the Green Wind to Fairyland. It's so sudden and arbitrary it takes you a while to realize that Valente is very deliberately telling you right up front: "Yes, this is
one of those stories where a child gets whooshed off to a magical world, and I'm not even going to bother making up a wardrobe or a tornado or a letter from Hogwarts to justify it." No, the Green Wind, wearing green jodphurs and with gold-green hair, just up and carries her away. On a leopard.
All children are Heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall 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.
September, who is an ordinary girl with ordinary levels of intelligence, bravery, compassion, and maturity, then has Adventures. She makes friends. She is scared. She gets hurt. She is betrayed. And she discovers why she was brought to Fairyland. At every step, Valente shows a conscientious awareness of all the stories she is paying homage to -- sometimes she winks at them slyly, sometimes she practically dances them across the page complete with ruby slippers -- but this isn't a rip-off or a copy or a retelling, it's a new story. And September is awesome.
I swear that every child who has ever loved a book, and every adult who has ever been a child who loved a book, will enjoy this.
I see that some people have actually given this book a 1-star rating. All I can say to them is: