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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

September is a twelve-year-old girl, Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and she longs for adventure. So when a Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes invite her to Fairyland - well, of course, she accepts (mightn't you?).

When she gets there, she finds a land in crisis and confusion - crushed by the iron rule of a villainous Marquess - she soon discovers that she alone holds the key to restoring order. Having read enough books to know what a girl with a quest must do, September sets out to Fix Things.

As September forges her way through Fairyland, with a book-loving dragon and a partly human boy named Saturday by her side, she makes many friends and mistakes; loses her shadow, her shoes and her way. But she finds adventure, courage, a rather special Spoon, and a lot more besides...

Titles get me. Give a book a great title and you’re three-quarters of the way to getting me to read it.

I’m bad with dates so I don’t remember exactly when I first came across yesterday’s read, but I remember the feeling its title evoked in me. I was scrolling through a list of recommended YA reads and I remember stopping at the sight of The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a mouthful.

I was hooked, spellbound, enthralled – all the things that people get when they see something that connects with their soul. This was back in 2014. Somehow, I’m only just reading it in 2021. I’m not even going to try to figure out what happened.

This book was first published in 2011, which is a whole ten years ago, and has been on The Pile That Only Grows Bigger since 2014 – seven years ago! I wish I could say it’s the only book I have taken this long to read, but … you get the point, I don’t have to say it out loud.

This is a book that was made for me.

I am so glad I read this book. It’s billed as a YA, reads more like a middle grade, and everyone who’s read it says it’s for adults too. Neither one nor the other, this book doesn’t quite fit in anywhere and is all the more magical for it.

Ostensibly the story is about a twelve-year-old girl named September who’s bored out of her mind in what I believe to be 1940’s Omaha. When we meet her, her father’s been taken off to the army, her mother works at a factory and she’s left at home all day.

She’s visited by the Green Wind, who extends an invitation to Fairyland, which she promptly takes without a second thought. Or even a look back at the home she’s leaving. As our narrator says, she’s Somewhat Heartless.

What ensues is the most fantastical journey through a land where towns sneak up on you and creatures can be part wyvern, part library and named A-Through-L. And my heart is still confused from the two major twists that snuck up on me.

Cathrynne M Valente writes the way I wish I could. There are five books in the series. How much do you want to bet book 2 is going to pop up on this list?


Some people think books written for children and young adults are not complex. If you’re one of those people, all I can say is that if Neil Gaiman can read this and love it, so can you.

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