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Girl Who Circumnavigated the Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own(CD)Lib(Un [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Catherynne M. Valente
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2011
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." -- Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.

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Review

“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 Zombies vs. Unicorns and 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 awy 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." -- Publisher's 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, Starred Review

"This book is quite simply a gold mine." -- Booklist, Starred Review

"Amusing, wrenching, and thought-provoking." --  The Horn Book

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Catherynne M. Valente began September’s adventures in installments on the Web; the project won legions of fans and also the CultureGeek Best Web Fiction of the Decade award. She lives with her husband on an island off the coast of Maine. She has written many novels for adults, but this is her children’s book debut.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, Magical Story June 21 2011
By Coreena
Format:Hardcover
This is a book I bought simply for the title - I thought it had to be good! It involves a girl going to Fairlyland, sounds good, and she makes her own ship, even better, she is active and can fend for herself. And then there is the cover, absolutely gorgeous and promises an enchanting book. I certainly was not disappointed.

The story starts with twelve year old September at home, bored with washing dishes and her ordinary life in Omaha - her father has left to go to war (WWI) and her mother works in the factory. The Green Wind sweeps in and offers to carry her off to Fairyland:

"You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child," said the Green Wind. "How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes and be delivered to the great sea, which borders Fairyland? I am afraid I cannot go in, as Harsh Airs are not allowed, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Perverse and Perilous Sea."
"Oh yes!" breathed September... (p.2)

And so September begins her adventures in Fairyland.

In Fairyland, September makes friends, especially with a Wyverary (half Wyvern and half library) named A-Through-L and a blue Marid boy named Saturday, amongst others. September is forced to go on a quest for the Marquess, a girl around her own age who governs Fairyland with strange rules and is feared by all.

This is a well told story, with an omnipotent narrator who frequently talks directly to the reader and lets them in on things that the characters do not know. There is a fun, Victorian, Alice in Wonderland air to the book which creates an old fashioned feel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Every child wants to be whisked away to a magical land, have adventures, and set out on a fantastical quest against a tyrant.

It's a pretty typical fantasy storyline as well, and it takes something special to make such stories stand out. Catherynne Valente's "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" is an enchanting example, filled with delightful nonsense, wryly witty prose, and a wonderfully oddball world that reminds me of a more lyrical Lewis Carroll.

A young girl named September is whisked away from her boring Nebraska home by the Green Wind, who takes her to Fairyland. But September soon finds herself traveling through Fairyland herself, encountering a soap golem, a half-library wyvern named A-Through-L, a wairwulf, the Perverse and Perilous Sea with its golden beaches, The House Without Warning, gnomish customs agents, a jeweled key, a migration of bicycles.

She also is given a quest by a pair of witches -- find the magical spoon that the cruel Marquess stole from their dead brothers. So she and the Wyverary set out to the city of Pandemonium, but soon find themselves (and a flying leopard named Saturday) on a new quest, with overwhelming results for all the people of Fairyland.

Normally, Catherynne Valente has a lush, lyrical, sensual writing style, and there's a fair amount of that in this book ("... the moon slowly fall down into the horizon and all the dark morning stars turn in the sky like a silver carousel"). Her Fairyland is a weird, sometimes dangerous place filled with countless oddball creatures (migrating bicycles!), making her story feel like a more plotcentric "Alice in Wonderland.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing children's fantasy adventure Sept. 11 2013
By Rose TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
This book was incredible, fantastical, and loaded with adventure. This is the kind of book a child would read over and over. I almost felt like I was 10 years old reading it. I am wowed by the incredible imagination of CM Valente.

This is the story of September. A young girl who's Father has gone off to war and who's Mother has to work all day. Poor September is alone....until the Green Wind shows up and whisks her off to Fairyland. She befriends a Wyvern - not a dragon, which are sort of cousins to the Wyverary, but he is most definitely not a dragon! They head off, meet lots of different people and have great adventures. She learns of the great Queen Mallow whom everyone loved, her subsequent disappearance and the new ruler, the Marquess. She's not a very nice ruler - keeps Wyvern's wings chained up so they cannot fly and other such mean things. In the end, September learns the truth of the Marquess and what became of the good Queen Mallow. She fixes things, at least for now, but learns that even though it is time for her to go home, she must come back every spring. The adventure continues
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4.0 out of 5 stars A New Heroine to Cheer On Nov. 7 2012
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making," by Catherynne M. Valente, is the first in a series of books about September, a just-past 12 year old girl in Nebraska, who is offered a trip via the flying Leopard of Little Breezes to Fairyland by the Green Wind. Fairyland is being governed now by the Marquess, who has made all sorts of laws and rules that are stifling the people; for example, only Cats and Ragwort Stalks can fly, meaning that Dragons and Wyverns and other magical flying creatures have their wings chained to their bodies. September soon meets all manner of creatures, including the Witches Hello, Goodbye and Manythanks; A-Through-L, a Wyvern/Library hybrid; Saturday, a Marid (seafolk); and Death, among many others. Of course she has adventures and of course she saves Fairyland from the wicked Marquess, but how she does so, now, therein lies the tale.... This is a lovely, very inventive and in places very funny book, which I would place as being somewhere between a children's novel and a YA book; Valente has many creative ideas that are expanded upon nicely here, and she also includes some wisdom and poignancy as well. But most of all, September is an "ill-tempered and irascible enough child," as the Green Wind says, who is also loyal and idealistic and kind; an excellent addition to the tradition of little girls as leading characters. I can't wait to start the second book, already in my "to be read" pile; recommended!
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  241 reviews
257 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it or hate it. Preferably, love. May 31 2011
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
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. A strange Marquess has taken over, having defeated the previous good ruler, and before she knows it September is sent to try to retrieve a spoon from the all powerful villain. Along the way she befriends a Wyvern who is certain that his father was a library, and a strange blue Marid boy named Saturday who can grant you a wish, but only if you defeat him in a fight. With their help, Saturday realizes what it means to lose your heart within the process of becoming less heartless.

Divisive. Each year you'll encounter one big children's book that can be labeled as such. Certain books and certain writers can have violent affects on their readers, unsuspected until the official reviews start pouring in. Then suddenly folks with opinions start pouring out of the woodwork. The books are as varied as "Mockingbird", "The Underneath", "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" or "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". One thing's for certain, though. Everyone has an opinion. This year I've only identified two potentially divisive books and one of them is the title you see before you today. I know I've been a little cagey about what I thought of it until now so here's the 411: I like it. A lot. Far more than I thought that I would, particularly after that first chapter. As far as I can determine, enjoying this book means getting through Chapter One. If you read the first chapter and find yourself throwing the book against the wall without restraint, this may not be the story for you. If, however, you feel a vague queasiness that manifests resolves into reluctant curiosity, you may wish to continue. And if you do, you will find a title that really outdoes itself in being . . . well . . . it's own very one-of-a-kind self.

But why is it divisive? It all comes down to Valente's language. Look, here's the first sentence as an example: "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." About ten words into that sentence you had to make a decision on whether or not to continue reading. Here's some advice on going through this book. Step One: Get a grasp on its internal logic.
The "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" comparison is inevitable. Generally speaking, a person is able to identify a poor debut children's book when the author attempts to make an Alice-in-Wonderland-but-with-a-twist book. The problem with this plan is that just as no band sounds quite like The Beatles, no children's novel ever sounds quite like "Alice". They try, oh Lord they try, but no go. More often than not such books are instead tedious and very poorly done. Most of them think that the lure of "Alice" is strange talking creatures in a world with no rules. This is somewhat true, but it's only a piece of the puzzle. And in all my days as a children's librarian, reading fantasy after fantasy, I have NEVER encountered a book that came as close to "Alice" as this. Not because Valente also throws a girl into a fairyland with kooky characters, but because it is so infinitely clear that she loves to play with language. Logic isn't as twisted up as it is in Carroll's universe, but that's all right. Valente is comfortable weaving her own unique vision, and like Carroll she's not afraid to throw in a little joke for adults once in a while. Would a kid get anything out of reading that the Green Wind possesses a "golden ring of diplomatic immunity"? Probably not and they probably won't care when Saturday enters a delicious looking town that, "was as though the witch who built the gingerbread house in the story had a great number of friends and decided to start up a collective." But it won't hurt the reading experience either.

Of course September is far more active than Alice when seeking out her adventure. In fact, if I were to compare her to any famous children's literary character, she probably bears more in common with Milo from "The Phantom Tollbooth" than anyone else. That was my first thought. Then after a while I decided that September begins as Alice (after all, she lies right at the start about wanting to go home), morphs into Dorothy (girl + faithful companions to defeat the big bad villain), and comes to us by way of Milo (boredom as a storytelling impetus). That's a pretty pedigree. On top of that, this is a thoroughly American fantasy. One where you won't encounter random characters with cockney accents (a current pet peeve of mine). September hails from Omaha, Nebraska and the story seems to take place during WWII. Her father is stationed in Europe while her mother works in the factories at home. Many fantasies for kids eschew placing their stories in such distinctive time periods, but if it worked for Narnia it should work here too.

And Valente gets personalities down rather well too. I heard one complaint that the Marid named Saturday is hardly a fleshed out character. I might contest this, though, since I found him capable of many small touches that rang clear and true to me. For example, at one point he makes a point that is followed up with the notation, "He was still too shy to suggest anything without wrapping it up tight to keep it safe." Likewise the villain of this book is delicious. It takes a while to get a good grasp on the Marquess, but once you get her full backstory then there's a lot to admire here. A mere two-dimensional villain she is not, and for that I was grateful.

Ana Juan, brilliant Ana Juan, could not have been a better person to draw the interstitial illustrations that appear at the beginnings of each and every chapter. This Spanish illustrator specializes in dreamlike worlds on her own time ("The Night Eater" is a perfect example) so it is interesting to see what she does with a book like Valente's. To my surprise, she hones in her talents a bit. The pictures here are most definitely her own, but there's a tendency here to make them a little younger and clearer than I'm used to seeing. There's a darkness to Valente's story that does not replicate itself in the pictures, which is probably a good thing. After all, Quentin Blake's illustrations have always served to make Roald Dahl less frightening at times. Maybe Juan's are doing the same thing here.

In the end, it's all about the language and the inevitable question of whether or not kids will dig the book. It's a worthy question. When a character is sent to a fairyland, even one in dire straits, it is up to the author to make it clear that this is a place you would want to visit. Some fantasies go a shade too dark and because of this inclination do not become beloved by children. Valente, however, mixes some wonderful elements with some horrific ones well enough that I think this book could be fondly remembered by a child years and years later. And when they return to it as adults, how surprised they will be by the wordplay. 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.

For ages 9-12.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern Alice, a modern queen, and a Tollbooth Faryland Nov. 23 2011
By Rover - Published on Amazon.com
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.
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful! May 12 2011
By Lauren "365 Days of Reading" - Published on Amazon.com
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!
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland June 20 2011
By Chapati - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book felt very much like The Phantom Tollbooth to me. It starts with a precocious, bored 12-year-old girl named September (even though she was born in May) being spirited off to Fairyland by the Green Wind. Once she gets through Customs, she is left to her own devices to make her way. She chooses the path that promises that she will lose her heart (a better bargain than losing her way, her life or her mind, she reasons). She comes upon three witches who tell her that they need a magical spoon that was stolen from them, so September grandly decides that stealing the spoon from the evil Marquess shall be her quest. She sets off to do so, meeting all sorts of wonderful characters along the way, such as El the Wyvern, who becomes her very best friend, and Saturday the Marid, who can grant wishes. And, as expected, she loses her heart and gains a lot of courage along the way.

If I were to sum up this book in one word, that word would be whimsical. But that wouldn't be fair because by the end of this book, there is a lot that is not whimsical. Like much young adult fiction, it's written for people at the cusp of becoming adults, realizing that their decisions have consequences and that the way they act says a lot about them. And so September thinks through every decision and never gives up, even when she is tired and homesick and lost. She is such a kind person and reminds me in a way of Bod, from The Graveyard Book. She opens her heart to all sorts of lost souls, absolutely certain of the fact that everyone deserves respect and dignity, and fighting hard to give it to them.

There are so many delights in this book and I won't ruin any of them for you, I promise. I feel the ending opens the story up for the possibility of a sequel, and I hope there is one. But if there isn't, I think the ending was quite lovely as it was. If I've piqued your interest at all, much of the story (except the ending) is available online, at Catherynne Valente's website. If you enjoy tales of whimsy and magic, I highly recommend checking it out!
74 of 93 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to love it but... Feb. 9 2012
By Artemis - Published on Amazon.com
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. These notions complicated with the ambitious descriptive writing style that convolutes nouns into verbs and verbs into adjectives and so on makes for very slow and confusing reading. To top it off, the aforementioned was packed in the very first chapter of only 10 pages! I would bet that most preteen readers would not venture any further past the first chapter or two of this book for fear that it would feel like homework or a chore because you have to research the meaning of at least 15 words or concepts in every chapter!

Yes, this fairytale is very Alice in Wonderland-ish or Wizard of Oz-ish and there is even a Narnia-ish other-world-connecting wardrobe closet mentioned, but the story doesn't mesmerize the reader like the other original fairytales do. In fact, the story plods along with its overly embellished descriptives to the point of lulling you to sleep. Often the adventures of the main character were non-conclusive to the importance of the plot which made it a bit annoying. Comments by other reviewers said this was a "modern" fairytale--uh, no, not really as the language is old fashioned and the timeline is during World War II. I don't even think most young kids know what a black and white news reel is as mentioned when the main character goes to a movie theatre. The storyline (if you call it that) just rambled on in a chaotic fashion where no goal seemed to unfold until, as mentioned, the last 50 pages or so. The book is only 247 pages! If it wasn't for the fact that I was giving this as a gift to my nieces, I would have stopped reading it long before. I kept going back online to reread the reviews thinking I missed something and just couldn't believe that my opinion was so far off on the other end of the spectrum of opinions about this book. So, I kept reading because, as I mentioned, I really wanted to love this book as others did...

After going back and forth with wanting to love it and didn't, in the end, I gave this book a 2 star rating because I couldn't give it 2 and a half. Three stars seemed to be too generous for me even though I thought the last part of the book was somewhat enjoyable. If you are looking for a style of writing to study in a high school language arts/literature class, then this book might be interesting to analyze. The story line is not very inventive as Valente` manages to use almost every kind of character type and concept models invented by previous authors/storytellers. Finally, I must reiterate that "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairland..." is definitely not geared towards young readers.
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