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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011)

by Catherynne M. Valente

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Girl Who (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,7342553,202 (4.07)334
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. 190
    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. 150
    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. 123
    Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (foggidawn)
  5. 80
    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (ErisofDiscord)
  6. 81
    Coraline by Neil Gaiman (foggidawn)
  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
    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.
  9. 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)
  10. 40
    The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (MyriadBooks)
  11. 40
    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.
  12. 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.
  13. 10
    Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (aethercowboy)
  14. 10
    The Nex by Tim Pratt (TomWaitsTables)
  15. 21
    Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (MickyFine)
  16. 21
    Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (baseballbabe)
  17. 10
    Dragonfly by Frederic S. Durbin (jessinfl)
  18. 00
    The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente (LBV123)
  19. 11
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (jessinfl)
  20. 00
    The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu (AlexDraven)

(see all 27 recommendations)


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» See also 334 mentions

English (253)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (255)
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
Valente creates a classic children's fantasy adventure in the vein of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with touches of Terry Pratchett and Lemony Snicket. September, a twelve-year-old girl from Omaha, Nebraska is drawn into Fairyland. Soon agrees to help some witches by stealing back a wooden spoon from Fairyland's tyrannical ruler the Marquess. She is helped by A-Through-L, a hybrid wyvern and library, and a marid named Saturday. But the Marquess gives her another quest, to recover a magical sword, while simultaneously hindering all of September's efforts.

And all of this happens well before September circumnavigates Fairyland in a ship of her own making. This novel is wonderfully imaginative and funny, deconstructing fantasy literature while also celebrating it. I expect to be reading more novels in this series. ( )
  Othemts | Nov 15, 2023 |
I lived this book. Wonderful fairy tale with beautiful language. ( )
  cdaley | Nov 2, 2023 |
This is like a high-end restaurant's classy, deconstructed version of one's favorite childhood dessert: it hits all the warm and fuzzy notes that a fun, romp-like, young-adult faerie tale should, while also having very worthwhile commentary on such topics as security theatre, the advantages and lack thereof of growing up, and the importance of feeling that you have agency over your own life.

Despite trying to cover some Big Ideas, and despite having some of the best world-building I've ever read, I barely noticed either of those things until I finished, because ultimately, The Girl Who Circumnavigated [etc] is, at it's heart, a faerie tale, and it reads like one: seamless and mythic. I felt wrapped up in the plot and the characters, with some room spared to appreciate the atmosphere. It was just once I finished that I realized how novel the book was. This is the type of book that I'll want to reread over and over again, and I am completely confident that I will find more each time I do.

It's worth noting, as an aside, that Valente's work is also extremely strong from a gender perspective: she has self-sufficient, interesting female characters who have myriad personalities and goals besides romantic ones. And unlike some books that have gotten critical acclaim for strong female characters, The Girl Who [etc] stars characters who break the bookish-eager to please-sidekick mold of female characters: the titular September is brash, nosy and heartless as well as brave, inventive and persistent; her mother is a mechanic.

There are so many other positive things to say: the denouement is clever (and extremely obvious once you know it, but so brave that I never expected it to be true!) and profound and sad, all at once. There is a Wyverary - a mix of a wyvern and a library who knows everything about everything as long as it starts with the letters A-L. There is a soap golem, who of course, has Truth inscribed on her forehead, and is of course, named Lye.

It's like the Phantom Tollbooth crashed into a faerie tale and it is absolutely delicious. ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
Cute. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
Oohhh, this book was so cute. And so full of STUFF, it's just everything you could want out of fairyland with a whole bunch of weird and magical things and beings. And the characters, oh, the characters, I REALLY liked them, all of them. Even the evil characters were really well-written, and honestly sympathetic. I don't think I've ever been able to relate to a villain quite this much?

My only complaint is that sometimes there's too much stuff going on, and I couldn't really keep up. I will definitely try to get my hands on the rest of the series though, because I am very much intrigued and I do wanna see all the characters again (especially Ell, and not only because we share a name! Being half-wyvern, half-library sounds like the best thing ever). ( )
  upontheforemostship | Feb 22, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (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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