The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente | Mini Book Review

Posted August 20, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Middle Grade / 4 Comments

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente | Mini Book ReviewThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 10, 2011
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 247
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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1 Stars

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.


This is one strange little book, with language I’m not sure I would have understood at age 11 or 12, which is the age I would recommend this book to. I think it’s too young for teenagers, but I don’t think I would have liked is as a tween, but I was not a fan of fairy tales at that age. I’m sure I would have liked the wyvern’s (dragon) humor and the cute illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, though. As an adult, I found myself being bogged down by purple prose (and too much of it!) and so many details that I was unable to actually keep track of what was going on.

The writing style is very pretty and ornate, but too much so and the language is too advanced for the age group the book is marketed to. September’s voice is very strong and dynamic, but she does not act her age (12) because of the way she talks and the way she acts (she uses an advanced vocabulary, but at the same time is naïve enough to run away with the Green Wind). There were too many details and it was so overly stylized that I found myself spacing out and losing focus. It made me tired. I also felt that referring to September as being “Ravished” was a bit odd and sexual. Overall, I just wasn’t a fan and am not sure who I would even recommend it to because it does not fit into one specific age group.

1 Stars
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4 responses to “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente | Mini Book Review

  1. I think this might be the first negative review I have seen for this book. Middle Grade is always a weird area because you do have younger kids doing a lot of things that push the limits for willing suspension of disbelief. That said, I have seen this one have a lot of crossover appeal for older readers. I haven’t read it yet (too many other pressing reads) but I would say that there is always value for books that do push vocabulary and read older because there are always kids who read about typical age level and want something a bit more challenging. That said, those books do of course have the potential to be very hard to get to the right readers.
    Emma @ Miss Print recently posted…The Summer of Chasing Mermaids: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

    • Jana

      I was pretty surprised when I ended up not loving this book. I haven’t seen any negative reviews either, and I’d been looking forward to starting this series for a long time! You’re completely right in saying that books that push the vocabulary of kids are important. I totally agree. My little sister taught herself to read at age 2, and had a very extensive and advanced vocabulary. She would have loved the language part of the book, but she would not have loved the character because, with an advanced vocabulary you usually expect that the child is slightly more mature as well. September’s vocabulary did not match her level of maturity, so it was weird for me. I guess my point was that I could not figure out who specifically would be drawn to this book because so many elements fall within different levels of reading, both in maturity and interest in general.

  2. I haven’t read this book, but it seems to be one of those you either REALLY like or really don’t. I agree that the “Ravishing” aspect sounds weird. Granted, most of the people I know who love it are adults readers of MG; I don’t know any tweens so I don’t know if they would like it. I’ll still probably try it for me, as an adult, though.
    Renae @ Respiring Thoughts recently posted…Renae Recommends: Books by Authors of Color

    • Jana

      Renae, I think you’re right. I can definitely see it being a love it or hate it kind of book. I also have not come across a child who loves these books. It’s always been an adult, like you mentioned. Definitely give it a try if you’re interested! I’d be curious to hear what you think of it. I read this for my YA Lit class and had to critique it for the age group, so maybe I went into it with a different attitude than if I had been reading it for pleasure. Not sure!