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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2009)

by Catherynne M. Valente

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Girl Who (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,2602393,029 (4.08)314
Twelve-year-old September's ordinary life in Omaha turns to adventure when a Green Wind takes her to Fairyland to retrieve a talisman the new and fickle Marquess wants from the enchanted woods.
  1. 180
    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (kaledrina, Crumble_Tumble)
    Crumble_Tumble: Both of these fantasy tales are a bit out there, a little crazy, a little hard to undestand. But once you get it, it's amazing. I LOVE these kinds of books
  2. 181
    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (aarti, calmclam)
  3. 140
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman (aarti, Jannes, rakerman)
    Jannes: Gaiman might be inspired by Dunsany and Mirrlees while Valente leans slightly more toward Carroll and Baum, but both of them are modern authors tackling the classic fairytale, both are great stylists, and both books are highly enjoyable.
    rakerman: Stardust is also a modern fairy tale, but I found it to be a much stronger book. The flow of chapter by chapter standalone encounters in The Girl was light and entertaining but for me had a weaker narrative flow than in Stardust.
  4. 113
    Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (foggidawn)
  5. 81
    Coraline by Neil Gaiman (foggidawn)
  6. 60
    The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (ErisofDiscord)
  7. 60
    Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente (Jannes)
    Jannes: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland was first concieved in Palimpsest as one of the protaginists' favourite book. Then it sort got a life of it's own, so to speak. Palimpsest is probably not for children, though.
  8. 50
    Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog by Ysabeau S. Wilce (macsbrains)
  9. 40
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (clfisha)
    clfisha: Its not a fairytale but if your looking for more inventive, rich and dark YA try this.
  10. 73
    Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (lorax)
    lorax: Both are beautifully written fairy tales about young people traveling to another world, readable by kids but with much for adults to enjoy.
  11. 30
    The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (MyriadBooks)
  12. 30
    At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (rakerman)
    rakerman: Wind spirits play an important role in both The Girl and At the Back of the North Wind. The books both have aspects of wonder and sorrow, with a similar idea of a child taken away into a magical land.
  13. 20
    Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (baseballbabe)
  14. 10
    The Nex by Tim Pratt (TomWaitsTables)
  15. 10
    Dragonfly by Frederic S. Durbin (jessinfl)
  16. 10
    Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (aethercowboy)
  17. 00
    Uprooted by Naomi Novik (g33kgrrl)
  18. 11
    Abarat by Clive Barker (Anonymous user)
  19. 00
    Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (amanda4242)
  20. 00
    The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker (PhoenixFalls)

(see all 27 recommendations)


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» See also 314 mentions

English (237)  German (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (239)
Showing 1-5 of 237 (next | show all)
This one has been on my TRL for a loooooong time so I'm really happy that I enjoyed the reading experience. This is the first in a series written for children about a young girl named September who gets whisked away by the wind on the back of a dragon to Fairyland. At the outset, this sounds like it will be the ultimate fantasy story to while away an afternoon but there are multiple layers to this tale and rather mature themes are explored. (As with many fairytales written for children as you well know.) For starters, this book takes place during WWII when most men are away at the Front while the women left behind are doing all the jobs that would ordinarily have been out of their reach. September is a child very familiar with this situation as her mother toils away for most of the day while her father is off fighting. Who wouldn't want to escape that for an adventure in Fairyland?! But like the old saying goes "Be careful what you wish for." because things are not quite so wonderful and carefree in this magical land. Villains, intrigue, depravity, and hopelessness are rife in Fairyland and September soon finds herself looking within for the strength to make her way back home. If you and/or the young readers in your life are looking for a new fantasy series then this is a great once to check out. ( )
  AliceaP | Jul 26, 2021 |
children's fiction/fantasy (main character is 12). Dec. 2011 (print version): liked it, just not enough to keep reading--ended up abandoning in order to move on to the other things on my bookshelf.

2015 update: checked out the playaway version of the book (read by the author), and liked it better when it was being read to me (by the author) vs. having to read the text myself--sort of similar to Alice in Wonderland, a series of nonsensical adventures that the heroine somehow makes her way through. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
I liked the idea but not the writing style. Some of the passages were lovely, particularly the one describing autumn, but it took me out of the narrative too much. Did love Ell though, and the lantern! ( )
  CASDonnelly218 | Feb 1, 2021 |
My daughter read this a year or two ago and loved it enough that she proposed it as a book to read to the family. So I read it aloud. The kids liked it, but I found it random and often hard to read aloud just because of the rhythm of the prose.

It often felt like a book written to showcase cleverness about writing a book about a girl in fairyland (there's a persistent winky tone) rather than to actually move a story along in a satisfying way. It's a step above the Captain Underpants series, I suppose, but there's so much better literature for kids out there.

Neil Gaiman liked it, though, so what do I know? ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
I didn't love this book, and I think it's because of the writing style, which felt to me both precocious and condescending in tone. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 237 (next | show all)
I won’t lie. Some folks do NOT like this book, and I can understand why that is. For me, though, this is just one of the smarter juxtapositions of the fantastical with the tongue-twisted. Here you have an author who clearly enjoys writing. And if that enjoyment seeps through the page and into the reader’s perceptions, then here is a book that they’ll clearly enjoy reading. A true original and like nothing you’ve really ever seen before.
added by PhoenixFalls | editSchool Library Journal (Jun 1, 2011)
Told by an omniscient narrator who directly engages readers, the densely textured text deftly mixes and matches familiar fairytale elements, creating 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.
added by melonbrawl | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 1, 2011)
The book's appeal is crystal clear from the outset: this is a kind of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by way of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, made vivid by Juan's Tenniel-inflected illustrations.
added by PhoenixFalls | editPublisher's Weekly (Mar 14, 2011)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Valente, Catherynne M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Juan, AnaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For all those who walked this strange road with me,
and held out their hands when I faltered.
This is a ship of our own making.
First words
Chapter 1

Exeunt on a Leopard
In Which a Girl Named September Is Spirited Off by Means of a Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents' house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.

One ought not judge: All children are heartless. They have not grown up yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.

Hats have power. They can change you into someone else.

When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That does not mean it is brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet, kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on.

Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.
In September's world, many things began with pan. Pandemic, Pangaea, Panacea, Panoply. These were all big words, to be sure, but as has been said, September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Twelve-year-old September's ordinary life in Omaha turns to adventure when a Green Wind takes her to Fairyland to retrieve a talisman the new and fickle Marquess wants from the enchanted woods.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

[retrieved from Amazon, 8/2/2012]
Haiku summary
Fairyland has rules.
Magical, but uncaring.
Like laws of physics.


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