What I’m Reading (and a giveaway!): THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

A tale so beautifully entrancing I want to crawl into the book and live in the margins.

Summary from the inside jacket:

September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.

Sometimes you want to read a book because of the title alone. You see the cover art next, and you want to read it because of that, too. Then you take a gander at the jacket copy and think, “Ooh, this sounds promising,” and then you start reading and several pages in you know you’ve got something special on your hands and delay reading the book each time you sit down to open it simply because you don’t want it to end. Ever.

That was my experience with this book. It is beautifully written, with an obvious Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz feel, but it is entirely unique and original at the same time. Twelve-year-old September is bored with her life when the jolly Green Wind comes rolling into her bedroom atop a leopard and invites her to Fairyland, where of course she has a grand adventure and meets a loveable cast of characters including, but not limited to, a Wyvern, Golem, Marquess, Marid, Fairy, Spriggan, and gleaming lantern.

The writing. Oh, my, the writing. Everything about this book is stunning. I knew, just a handful of pages in, that Ms. Valente could take me anywhere and I would absolutely believe, buy, and fall in love with the path she chose. You feel this book. Taste it. Hear it. See it as plainly as if it were before your very eyes. I could blab all day, but I think the best way to showcase the magic of this book is to share some of my favorite quotes with you. I was sticky-noting the heck out of this book while I read.

“All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.” (p4)

“Hats change everything. September knew this with all her being…For one day, her father had put on a hat with golden things on it and suddenly he hadn’t been her father anymore, he had been a soldier, and he had left. Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else.” (p26)

“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.” (p36)

“When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. This 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.” (p50)

“Though you can have grief without adventure, you cannot have adventure without grief.” (p68)

“I suppose you think you know what autumn looks like…The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightfully in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkins, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a moon like a boney knee.” (p129)

“That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory.” (p169)

“Shoes are funny beasts. You think they’re just clothes, but really, they’re alive. They want things. Fancy ones with gems want to go to balls, big boots want to go to work, slippers want to dance. Or sleep. Shoes make the path you’re on. Change your shoes, change your path.” (p187)

“When little ones say they want to go home, they almost never mean it. They mean they are tired of this particular game and would like to start another.” (p205)

“That’s what happens to friends, eventually. They leave you. It’s practically what they’re for.” (p233)

SEE? I think I swooned my entire way through this book. So vivid, so smooth.

In addition to the fantastic prose, the story is the best kind of adventure, with twists and turns and surprises. September is a stubborn, but strong lead, sharp and resourceful and loyal to her friends. She is not afraid to question things and she speaks her mind. And her main companion in this book – a Wyvern (or dragon) named A-Through-L because his mother is a library – is both as charming as he is entertaining. I found I enjoyed him as much as Taggle in Plain Kate. And the villain. The Marquess is deliciously evil. My heart was flitting about when she made her grand entrance. I loved every minute of this book.

That being said, I want everyone to experience this gem of a tale, and figure the best way to get it into at least one more set of hands is to give away a copy. Just leave a comment telling me which of the above quotes is your favorite, and why, and you could win a copy of THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND! Contest is open until noon EST on Monday, August 22nd. US only (sorry, folks!). Random.org will pick one winner.

And stay tuned for an ARC giveaway coming later this week or early next!

31 Responses
    1. Erin

      Oh, Sophia! I am so sorry. I always feel bad when I have to limit giveaways, but you know how budgets are. I still HIGHLY recommend picking it up, or borrowing from your local library. If they don’t have it, tell them to order it! Valente talks about libraries a lot in the book as well; any librarian would be happy to have this book in their collection :)

  1. Teresa Lukey

    My favorite quote:
    “When little ones say they want to go home, they almost never mean it. They mean they are tired of this particular game and would like to start another.” (p205)

    It reminds me of my boys. Always getting bored and having too change activities.

  2. Mak

    “When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. This 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.”

    Oh, my, yes! This is why everyone says “it was the best vacation of my life” almost every time. And why it’s always good to get home- eventually, you start to see past the jewels to the real stuff underneath. And home is the most real.

  3. My favourite has to be: “That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory.” I love the implication of loss and distance in this quote. The world changes so quickly and even if we try to preserve it in things like maps, we’re never going to be able to do it perfectly. Something will always be missing.

    Thanks for the contest!

    Angel

  4. I would just like to point out that this is an MG fantasy. You know, that fantabulous genre that everyone’s ditched writing for YA? *insert smug grin here*

    Yes, I’ve heard of this, and I think I’d love it just because of the MC’s name. And the dragon’s name. And the fact that there’s a dragon (oh be still my beating heart!). Or maybe just the fact that it’s an MG fantasy… my soft spot since ever. :)

    1. Erin

      I love MG! Love, love, love. I have a feeling I’ll write an MG or two at some point in my career. I hope so, at least :)

  5. Being a girl named after a month myself, I was initially jealous–suspicious even–of September. Her name conjures up images of Autumn, which everyone knows is the best season, as compared to MY name, which, sadly, provokes talk of Showers and Spring Flowers, and other such depressing things. But September charmed me with her spirit and tenacity, and now I love FAIRYLAND pretty much more than life itself.

    1. Erin

      Haha. You know, I never thought about the fact that you are named after the raining season. I usually curse the month of April, but I quite like it as a name. I picture flowers and butterflies, not dreary, water-logged grass.

      Anyway, I’m with you. This book is wonderful :)

  6. I’m glad to have heard about this one from you… it looks very cool and the writing appears to be beautiful–love! My favorite quote is easily the one dealing with shoes. :)

    “Shoes are funny beasts. You think they’re just clothes, but really, they’re alive. They want things. Fancy ones with gems want to go to balls, big boots want to go to work, slippers want to dance. Or sleep. Shoes make the path you’re on. Change your shoes, change your path.”

    Thanks for the lovely giveaway, Erin!

  7. I found your blog while searching for this book! :) I’ve been wanting to read it SO BAD!

    My favorite quote:
    “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.”

    bluerosesheart at yahoo dot com

  8. Wow, this book sounds fantastic. I’m already swooning at those excerpts. Actually, you had me at the jacket copy.

    My favorite is this bittersweet quote:
    “That’s what happens to friends, eventually. They leave you. It’s practically what they’re for.”

  9. You know, I’ve seen this book around and have been hearing good things, but for whatever reason, it just never hooked me. But these quotes! I’m breathless with how lovely these lines are.

    My favorite has to be:
    “All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.”

    I think it captures the contradictory and wonderful nature of children and growing hearts is a creative, beautiful way of describing growing up. Love it!

    Thanks for this giveaway!

  10. My favorite quote is the first (I’m lazy – not too lazy to not read the quotes, but too lazy to copy it into the comment). It’s just cool, it seems so insightful and sad.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’ve been trying to get a copy of this book forever – it looks absolutely awesome – but haven’t had any luck so far.

  11. I love “Though you can have grief without adventure, you cannot have adventure without grief,” because it’s sooo true. And fantastic writing advice. If you’re not willing to cause your characters grief, it’s not going to be a very good story!

    But I also love the quote about the hats. It’s so sad, but wrapped in such whimsy. I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I heard the title, so I’m glad to hear that it lives up to high expectations. :P

  12. Oh, pick me, pick me!

    My favorite quote would have to be:

    “All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.”

    It’s simply adorable! And it evokes such vivid imagery about childhood and the wonderment that comes along with it. Le sigh. I need to climb more trees!

  13. Kelly

    What a pretty book!

    “All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.”

    I love this quote because it actually kind of seems ironic to me. I’ve always felt that, perhaps, children are the most understanding. Maybe some are heartless in the way the quote refers, but they have so much more heart than many adults. As in the film, “The Polar Express,” adults tend to grow out of the ‘heart’ they used to have as children. When you are a child, you believe in much more than what you can see and I like that most about them.

    They “leap so very high” because they believe they can truly fly.

  14. Breda

    It’s so obvious, reading these quotes, why Neil Gaiman so heartily recommended this book. It sounds quite a bit like him. Beautiful. Also, man, I need to read this.

    My favorite: “All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.” (p4)

    I love this, because it reminds me so very much of my own childhood (much of which was spent reading up a tree), but also because it so deftly blends the thoughtless cruelty of children with their thoughtless, exhilarating daring.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  15. Ash

    “That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory.” (p169)
    Having just gotten back homefrom backpacking across Europe, this quote feels already painted across my soul, the words jumping out through my heart singing aloud as I read each word. My soul has sung this beautiful poetry has touched me in ten words deeper than anything I can remember In the recent past.

  16. I would LOVE to read this book. I’ve heard wonderful things about it all over the internet (read, I guess) and it is very much on my TBR list.

    I love the map quote best, I think, though it’s so hard to choose! But that one makes me think of things like memory palaces — the medieval sort — and, what if we could buy and sell memories as maps? Probably some fantasy exists out there with that, and if so, I’d like to read it.

  17. Ah, this book looks fantastic! I love all of those quotes, but my favorite probably is:

    “That’s what happens to friends, eventually. They leave you. It’s practically what they’re for.”

    So sad, yet so true :(

  18. I’ve already read this one, both in serial form and book form! So I don’t need to enter b/c someone else should have a try. But oh, I seriously LOVE this quote:

    “All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.”

    It’s gorgeous and really sets the tone for this novel. I love the way Catherynne words things. Already a classic to me :)

  19. Jen Daiker

    So your tweet had me jumping over immediately… When someone mentions FREE and BOOK in the same sentence I’m game!

    Gorgeous cover art, love that you were captivated. I’m captivated just reading your thoughts! Please do enter me!!

    PS – I’m running a contest of my own if you’d like to stop by! Great blog!!!

  20. I’ve heard good things about this book.

    I love:
    “Hats change everything. September knew this with all her being…For one day, her father had put on a hat with golden things on it and suddenly he hadn’t been her father anymore, he had been a soldier, and he had left. Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else.” (p26)

    It seems so true to how kids think.

  21. I haven’t read a lot of MG lately, but this sounds absolutely delightful! I really love the quotes you’ve shared. My favorite is this one:

    “When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. This 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.”

    So lovely and true!

  22. Madison Garber

    “That’s what happens to friends, eventually. They leave you. It’s practically what they’re for.” (p233)
    At first glance, I thought this was kind of a sad quote. But to me, it’s not about the fact that they leave you, but rather what they leave you with: memories, laughs, new found loves…
    Sounds like a great book! Thanks for doing the giveaway!

  23. I love the quote about shoes! It is so true! They have definite opinions on where they should go, and you should always do as they say. lol I love shoes!

  24. Oh, definitely my favorite is, “Though you can have grief without adventure, you cannot have adventure without grief.” (p68)

    It resonates with me because I’m almost done drafting the last book of this series, and at every turn, I find that the best ending — the one that is truest to the story and the characters — contains wonderful things at a very high cost. Great adventure, but also great grief. As in most things we hold dear, I think.

  25. Kelly

    I like the one about stories changing faces! Do you think throwing erasers refers to how when stories are told by from one person to another, details are skewed and more added? That’s a nicer way of saying we make things up!

    @librarykelly

  26. I really like the first one! It reminded me of the short story “Crystal Heart,” where the Crystal Heart was the most prized posistion someone could give, because it had been their heart and the giver would take it from their body even though they knew they would die. Slightly morbid, but it was presented as such a beautiful act of love.

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