Great Illustrated Books

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

By Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Ana Juan

Feiwel & Friends, 2011
Pages : 256
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up
ISBN: 9780312649616

Lonely twelve-year-old September is well-versed in fairytales and ready for an adventure, so nothing seems more fitting than when a green man riding a flying leopard comes to whisk her away from a sink full of dirty dishes to Fairyland. September is not a cold-hearted child, but like popular heroines before her such as Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) and Alice (Alice in Wonderland), she is not sorry to leave home. The question is: is she completely prepared for the strange, wonderful, thorny road ahead? Lending an ominous note to the proceedings, even the storyteller, who, in a warm, knowing voice takes readers into her confidence, wonders.

However, September is stalwart and brave. Most of all, she is loyal to the new friends she meets including Ell, a Wyvern; Saturday, a Marid; and Gleam, an animated lamp. All have already suffered under the rule of the evil Marquess, yet the Marquess vows they will be further punished if September does not do her bidding. With this, readers will feel they are standing in September’s shoes – or, in this case, shoe (September lost one while flying to Fairyland). The quest: find the sword – a talisman that will do September’s bidding – and go to the Bottom of the World to disengage Fairyland from the human world. In page-turning succession, September sees incredible beauty, has fantastic experiences, learns new philosophies, and endures severe tests. Ever resourceful, she sees through the false riches of Fairyland to build her own boat to travel to the Bottom of the World. Readers will be enthralled throughout, rooting for September and as worried about her friends as she is.

This is a sophisticated, many-layered tale, and the author is adept at creating quirky, fully-developed characters so at the story’s conclusion, readers even feel compassion for the tyrannical little Marquess. September returns home changed . . . but the epic has not ended. According to the storyteller, “All stories must end so, with the next tale winking out of the corners of the last pages, promising more, promising moonlight and dancing and revels, if only you will come back when spring comes again.” And readers will come back for the promised sequel.

Extras: Visit the publisher website for an excerpt, trailer, music, art, and more:

Reviewed by : JMcD


If you love this book, then try:

Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. HarperCollins, 1997.

Chabon, Michael. Summerland. Miramax, 2004.

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials series). Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996.

Law, Ingrid. Savvy. Dial, 2008.

Critics have said

It's an allusive playground for adults, but even though young readers won't catch every reference, those who thrill to lovingly wrought tales of fantasy and adventure (think McCaughrean or DiCamillo) will be enchanted.
Publishers Weekly

Told by an omniscient narrator who directly engages readers, the densely textured text deftly mixes and matches familiar fairytale elements, creating a world as bizarre and enchanting as any Wonderland or Oz and a heroine as curious, resourceful and brave as any Alice or Dorothy.
Kirkus Reviews