Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)
Illustrated By: Ana Juan
Published By: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Page Count: 247
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Middle Grades - Fantasy

Go buy, borrow, or steal this book right now! Well, don’t steal it, but do get a copy in your hot little hands at all costs and as soon as possible. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a jewel among books and deserves a place on everyone’s shelf. 

September is a girl whose father has gone to war (presumably WWII) and whose mother now works in a factory. One day, as she is home alone washing dishes, the Green Wind comes to take her to Fairyland. In Fairyland, September meets witches, a wyverary (what results after a wyvern and a library…you know… fall in love), the Queen, a sea spirit, and sets out on a quest. Many strange, and wondrous, and dark things befall September, and she must make the choices that will ultimately come to define her. 

Valente wields English like a rapier; her use of the language is slim, agile, and can pierce a reader to the core. She has enormous insight into the human condition and treats it with a beautiful balance of solemnity and humor. Her characters and the world they inhabit are colorful (in every sense), vivid, and easy to see in the mind’s eye. (I, for one, will not be surprised to see this translated to the big screen in the future.) 

 Another thing that makes this book so good is that a reader can enjoy it on any level. It’s a great adventure story for middle grade kids. Older kids and young adults will appreciate the twists Valente gives to traditional folklore and fairytales. There’s also plenty here for grownups, from put upon grad students to furniture and clothes that distrust the young. 

 But don’t take my word for it. Go read this book and tell me what you think. 

 Five robust, lilac-tailed, golden-crowned birdies!

 Favorite quotes: 

 “One ought not to judge her: all children are Heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb high 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. 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.” 

 “’When you are born,’ the golem said softly, ‘your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk, and crusty things, and dirt, and fear, and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living. So every once in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the works going, or else you’ll never be brave again.’”

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.


  1. I love how it's more than a fairytale - I love how it speaks of life and love and how we grow and I love how she's incorporated other aspects of other stories in it!

    You're right, it is completely unique!!

    Lovely review :)

  2. Thank you! One of my favorite parts is the narrator's voice speaking to the reader -- love her observations.

  3. The title alone sucks you in. I think a lot of my former 7th grade students would enjoy this book.


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