The Girl Who... combines the best of fairy tales and The Phantom Tollbooth, starting a series that I think middle grade readers will truly enjoy. There's wit, adventure, and just enough "ooh, that reminds me of ___" to keep readers from feeling as though this is something they've already read (a problem I'm finding in many newer books).
September (that's The Girl's name) is, like Milo, bored. Instead of finding a game, she finds a Wind who whisks her off of the back of a Leopard to Fairyland. Of course, there's a Quest and Rules, and interesting characters for September to meet: a Wyverary, a Pooka, a Golem made of soap, and a Marid, among others. She travels from Omaha to Westerly, to Pandemonium, and from there to Autumn Provinces and the the Worsted Wood and on to the Perverse and Perilous Sea before she reaches the Lonely Gaol. Oh, and did I mention the magic Key?
Are there lessons learned? Of course. Her naivete leads her to eat witch's food, golem's food and other non-fairy creatures' food without realizing that it's all Fairy Food and thus she invokes the Persephone Clause. She chooses to save her friends, to give up her shadow and generally proves that she is a good person, despite being a Ravished.
September has gone through the looking glass and the wardrobe, into an Ozian world filled with friends and interesting challenges (and enemies).
ARC provided by publisher.