Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
Every review I've read about this book has been glowing, so I was very excited to receive a review copy so I could see what all the fuss was about. As someone who adored The Phantom Tollbooth, I was excited to see Fairyland compared to books like it as well as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
But alas, I just could not connect with it. To me, short of September and Ell, the characters were difficult to imagine and Fairyland didn't seem vivid enough for me to feel like I was there, traveling with September on her quest.
I also found the language and style of writing to be way beyond the capacity of a student in the middle grades, unless they are reading way above grade level. Heck, I'm 31 years-old and even I had a difficult time with it. I don't think I'll be able to recommend this book to my own students unless I know that they need a challenge. I'm going to put this book in the hands of my high readers this year and see what they think. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe this will be a good fit for my readers who need a challenge yet aren't mature enough for young adult books.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Published: May 2011 by Feiwel & Friends
Audience: Middle Grade