Thursday, September 12, 2013
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... Review
Book talk: What would you do if the Green Wind appeared at your house one day on the back of his flying leopard and offered to take you away to Fairyland? Would you stay safe at home with your amiable dog and your chores? Or would you fly off to adventure, despite knowing that with you cannot have one without grief? For September, the choice is easy. She lives in Omaha, which is no place for anybody, and she has read plenty of stories about Fairyland so she knows how these things work. But despite these preparations she soon discovers that she has no idea how to behave or where to go. She happens upon a crossroads with signs leading in four directions: to lose your way, to lose your life, to lose your mind, and to lose your heart. If only she knew what kind of story she was in! If she was in a merry tale she could dash off and have her adventures, but if she were in a serious tale she would have to do something important. But she doesn't know, so she tries her best and decides to head down the path marked 'to lose your heart.' Was it the right choice? Which way would you go?
Rocks my socks: There are so many things I love about this book that I can't come anywhere near listing them all. Let's start with the most obvious selling point: one of the main characters is a wyvern (a variety of dragon) whose father is a library. He grew up memorizing the encyclopedia and can tell you about anything so long as it begins with the letters A-L. The novel is chock-full of fanciful and surreal details from this to the capital city, Pandemonium which the queen made out of cloth ("Fierce was her needle, and she wore it like a sword!") The whole tale is told with an eminently witty and quotable style in the very best tradition of fairy tales. As is the case with most fairy tales these fantastical and absurd elements are thinly veiled metaphors for profound lessons and truths, such as when September is informed that courage attracts gunk over time and therefore has hers literally cleaned up before heading full-tilt into her adventure. I absolutely adored this novel for its abundant heart, wit, and imagination.
Rocks in my socks: nothing!
Every book its reader: As much as I adored this novel, it is hard to describe the right audience for it (other than of course people like myself!) It is a fairy tale with a young protagonist, but with its droll humour, advanced vocabulary, and the way it describes childhood from the perspective of an adult looking back rather than as experience by an actual child it read more like a novel written for nostalgic adults than one written for children. It reminds me of Peter Pan. I'm sure there are precocious children who will love it, and I think it would make an excellent book for a parent and child to read together, but I'm not sure the average child would be able to read and enjoy this on his own. Of course there isn't that much violence or sensuality in it, so if a young child wishes to try I wouldn't stop her.
Catherynne M. Valente has her own website with many free short stories in addition to the usual FAQ etc
Macmillan has a page for the book with excerpts, reviews, and the delightful yet subtly creepy book trailer below:
Yep, that song is definitely going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
Source: school library
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente: buy it or check it out today!
“It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.”
“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”
“When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That does not mean it IS brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet, kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on.”
“...September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.”
“Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else.”
“Splendid things are often frightening. Sometimes, it's the fright that makes them splendid at all.”
"Theatrical folk are nothing but a bundle of monologues and anxiety headaches.”