Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Age Range: 10-14 (Kirkus Reviews)
Interest Range: 10-adult
Plot: September is a very normal girl whose father has gone off to fight in World War II and whose mother is now working a lot to help with the war effort. On the night of her twelfth birthday, the Green Wind and his Leopard decide to surprise September with a trip to Fairyland. Before she knows it, September is off on a greater adventure than she could ever have imagined. Fairyland is in turmoil, ruled by a Marquess that has forbidden dragons and fairies to fly and imposed all other sorts of demanding rules on the inhabitants of this fantastic world. Along the way, September makes many new friends, including a Dragon who was raised by a Library and a blue boy from the sea who can grant wishes. But will this terribly normal girl be strong enough to stand up to the evil Marquess? Can she find a way to follow her ever-growing heart and restore Fairyland to what it once was?
Review: One of my top ten books that I have read in 2012, this story is absolutely amazing. For any lover of fairy tales, adventure stories, or fans of Lewis Carroll, this book is a must read. Valente manages to create a Victorian-style story that is truly on a middle grade level, even if it will expand the vocabulary of readers of any age. A wonderful example of a coming-of-age tale, this story follows September’s progression from being Heartless (as all children are) to someone who’s Heart is Growing (what happens to everyone as they begin to grow up). She makes new relationships with very diverse characters and must make very important decisions about who to trust and who to move against. I’ve already given this book as a gift to a few of my friends who have embarked on major life changes this year, and it has struck a chord with each of them. Enjoyable to read for adventurers of all ages.
Themes: Coming of Age, Building New Relationships, Making Decisions
September: A twelve-year-old girl from Nebraska whose parents are both rather absent because of war-time activities (World War II). She is taken to Fairyland by the Green Wind and left there to have adventures, which ultimately involve the dethroning of the evil Marquess.
A-Through-L: A Wyverary, or a wyvern (like a dragon) whose father was a Library. He has extensive knowledge of everything beginning with the letters A-L. He has no forepaws (so think of a shape like the letter S) and wings, but those wings are chained due to one of the Marquess’s laws. A-Through-L befriends September early in her adventures and travels with her throughout Fairyland.
Saturday: Saturday looks very much like a young boy with blue skin, but he is a Marid. He comes from the sea and lives his life quite out of order. But if you defeat him in legitimate combat, Saturday can and must grant you a wish.
The Marquess: The ruler of Fairyland. She took her place when there was a vacancy from the previous queen, who simply left one day never to return. The Marquess learns of September’s adventures in Fairyland and sets her with the quest of obtaining a very special sword from the depths of a dangerous forest. September must then decide if she will use the sword herself or hand it over to save her friends.
Valente, C. M. (2011). The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. New York: Macmillan.
A very normal girl goes on very abnormal adventures in Fairyland. Can she make the right choices to save both this magical world and herself?