We are wrapping up reading aloud The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne Valente. I have to begin this review by saying that this book completely blew me away on every level. I’ve had to read it a bit piecemeal because the Husband and I alternate read alouds in the evenings, but I’ve mostly covered it and it’s amazing.
September is an ordinary girl living a mundane life in World War II era Kansas. Her father is away at war and her mother works in a factory. When she has the opportunity to leave and go on adventures in fairyland, she seizes it. After all, she’s a child and children, the book explains, are heartless, so not only does she jaunt off, September does so without much of a thought for her mother. September makes lots of friends, including a Wyvern who is part library. Fairyland turns out to be under the thumb of a rather horrible young marquess who wants to use September for her own purposes.
The story is layered and complex, with some incredible symbolism. However, the best part is the language. The voice in this book is so strong. It’s both old-fashioned, reminding me of greats like E. Nesbit as well as modern, reminding me of the disconnected voice of Lemony Snicket that has become so popular in other works. Suffice it to say, it’s a unique tale. If I had realized just how much there was to this before we embarked, I might have waited a year or two. Mushroom and BalletBoy have enjoyed it, but I think it might have been better waiting on a shelf for a little while. However, it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve read in awhile and I highly recommend it.