Kathryn's Reviews > The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own M... by Catherynne M. Valente
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
446464
's review
Aug 31, 12

bookshelves: fantasy-sci-fi, middle-grade, annie-and-katie-bookclub
Read from June 20 to August 13, 2012

It was challenging enough for me to sort out my feelings about September and her adventures while I was tagging along through the pages of this book, let alone to articulate them now as I try to write a review. For the first few chapters, I was totally in love. Valente's writing style is stunning; poetic, inventive, gorgeous. Indeed, throughout the novel, I came across a number of passages that just really "got" me, be they poignant or humorous, descriptive or didactic. (See below for an excerpt I especially loved.) And yet, though I always appreciated the wordweaving, I'm not sure I was so captivated by the worldweaving. I just never really found September a kindred spirit; I appreciated so many things about her, and yet I always felt just a little detached. I think my favorite characters where the Wyverary, the Green Wind, and Lye. Many of the other characters appear, as in classics such as "Alice in Wonderland", the "Narnia" chronicles and "Phantom Tollbooth", for a mere chapter or two. They are curiosities, provide an interesting diversion or perhaps a little lesson, but they never felt real, never contributed enough to the story or to September's growth to make me feel invested. Several chapters were such a yawn because of that. Though, in all fairness, I should say that the above mentioned classics are not among my favorite books of all time, so perhaps it is just a style of adventure fantasy that is not my perfect cup of tea? About half way through, I even contemplated giving up on the book. I cared that little about September and her journey. Sad, but true. Valente's lyrical writing style compelled me to continue, though, and I am glad I did. Events and characters came together more toward the end, September's purpose was more crystallized and it became about love and friendship instead of just about curiosity and cunning. I was very touched by a few sections at the end, though when I saw that there is room for a sequel I did not give the squeal of joy that many readers probably did.

I also must caution that, though this is a "children's book", I am not sure it is appropriate for all children. For one, the vocabulary is quite advanced and, while some children will love the style and enriching their vocabulary, others may find it frustrating. Also, a few concepts might be a bit troublesome for some children. In one chapter, we meet two sisters (witches) who are married to the same man. In another chapter, a savagely hungry September must kill and eat a fish, ripping out its guts with her own hands and choking down its raw flesh, in order to survive. Finally, I am not sure I was ever comfortable with the recurring concept that children are "heartless" and I'm not sure that is something children need to hear, either. (I do think it is dispelled later in the book, but it seems a bit harsh at first.) In any case, some children may dismiss these things, some may not find them problematic, but it may raise questions in other children that some parents feel reluctant to discuss.


All in all, I would recommend September's story to adults who love stories like "The Wizard of Oz" and "Alice" and "Narnia" and to mature children who share similar interests. I must also point out that the illustrations are lovely and quite suitable for the story and characters.

Finally, E. Tobler wrote the following on their Amazon.com review and I thought it was so lovely and apt that I couldn't help but include the excerpt here:

"3 draughts Wonderland
2 swallows Oz
1 trickle Labyrinth
1 dribble Narnia
1/2 measure Victoriana
1 pinch Shakespeare
1 dash Greek myth

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and when bound into a smooth dough, lift and slice the shadow free. Any blood droplets should be kneaded back into the dough. Set to bake for one hour, until the house smells of vanilla and maple syrup. Serve warm with honey butter on the back of a penny farthing, shared with your very-red wyvern and your best blue boy."



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Love this! I want to take a fairy bath :-> My courage could use a de-gunking, and I wouldn't mind a dip in the wish-cleaning and luck-cleaning baths, either: "When you are born, 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 gunky 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, its so grunged up with living. So, every once in awhile, you have to scrub it up and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again" (pg 60).
14 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
sign in »

Quotes Kathryn Liked

Catherynne M. Valente
“It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.”
Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


Reading Progress

07/02/2012 page 35
14.0% "not sure what I think of this yet. some aspects I love; some of it feels a bit too forced, though. Still, it's early."
07/02/2012 page 35
14.0% "not sure what I think of this yet. some aspects I love; some of it feels a bit too forced, though. Still, it's early." 1 comment
07/05/2012 page 65
26.0% "Love this! I want to take a fairy bath :-> My courage could use a de-gunking, and I wouldn't mind a dip in the wish-cleaning and luck-cleaning baths, either."
07/29/2012 page 122
49.0% "lovely writing but the plot feels too disjointed for me to really feel compelled to pick it up every day, sigh."

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

Dawn (& Ron) Looking forward to seeing your reaction to this, especially after Lisa's enthusiastic response to it.


Kathryn Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Looking forward to seeing your reaction to this, especially after Lisa's enthusiastic response to it."

Thanks, Dawn. I'm enjoying it more as September's journey continues.


message 3: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Sounds cute!


message 4: by Lisa (last edited Jul 06, 2012 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Love this! I want to take a fairy bath :-> My courage could use a de-gunking, and I wouldn't mind a dip in the wish-cleaning and luck-cleaning baths, either: "When you are born, 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 gunky 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, its so grunged up with living. So, every once in awhile, you have to scrub it up and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again" (pg 60).

LIKE

I also liked the quote you like, among others.

I'm glad you're enjoying the book, Kathryn.


Dawn (& Ron) Wow, glad to see this turned around so wonderfully for you Kathryn! The quote you included in your review gives a wonderful example of the feel of the book.

Our library system has finally added a copy, other than the audio book they had, so I may have to move this one up the queue, especially with how much you and Lisa love it.

I'm currently reading Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers and am enjoying Miss Theo, and her exploits, which is refreshing after my last two reads. I'm working on ways to turn this one into a dual homeschooling project, reading and history.


Kathryn Dawn (& Ron) wrote: "Wow, glad to see this turned around so wonderfully for you Kathryn! The quote you included in your review gives a wonderful example of the feel of the book.

Our library system has finally added a..."


Yes, I'm really enjoying it now. I would definitely recommend checking out the book (not just the audio) as the illustrations are charming.

I am glad to know you're enjoying Theodosia. It's been on my to-read for awhile and I may have to bump it up :->


Dawn (& Ron) I can't do audio books anyway, so book form is the only way I can go. I've noticed on e-books that you don't normally get all the illustrations which I believe is the case with the Theodosia books too. I hope you do read that one so you can let me know what you think. I've moved this one up but there is still quite a few before it and I've got to concentrate on working in some homeschooling ones, not sure if the Valente book will work, although it can be a book for them to read and review for school (and GR).


message 8: by Susanne (new)

Susanne I love it! I would so need a fairy bath right now :-)


Kathryn Susanne wrote: "I love it! I would so need a fairy bath right now :-)"

;-)


message 10: by Brambly (new) - added it

Brambly Hedge "And yet, though I always appreciated the wordweaving, I'm not sure I was so captivated by the worldweaving." This is where I am with this book too. It feels like something delicious I come to now and then for refreshment, but I struggle for desire to return to it or to care how it all turns out. This is not the reaction I expected to have, and that confuses me.


Kathryn Thanks for sharing your experience, Brambly. Glad to know I am not alone in feeling that way.


back to top