Audiobook Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

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

Published: This was first published as an online serial, then May 10th 2011 by Feiwel & Friends/MacMillan

Source: local library (audiobook)

Synopsis: 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.

My thoughts: Becca, the fantastic Mover & Shaker who I work with at the library, has been trying to get me to read Fairyland since forever. She was totally right when she said I would love it.

I don’t read a ton of middle grade titles (it’s something I’m trying to branch out into) but in the last couple months I’ve had great luck with middle grade audiobooks, especially when they are narrated by the author, as Fairyland is.Though the illustrations in the print version are enchanting, the omniscient narrative style which often breaks the fourth wall is ideal for audio. Cat Valente was literally relaying the story to me.  Her rendition of this story is just magical. Her raw, throaty voice is the perfect medium to hear this modern, imaginative fairy tale.

And what a fairy tale it is! This is a book I can truly wholeheartedly recommend to adults and children alike. Magical and mysterious, in beautiful language with layers of meaning and creative twists, this is a story to rival classics like Alice and Wonderland. There’s a half-library dragon-like creature, a blue boy named Saturday, and riddles and adventures.

This began as a story-within-a-story mentioned in Palimpsest, and now I very much want to read the adult fantasy, and I’m also intrigued by Deathless. I have a feeling that Cat Valente will become one of my favorite authors. Her way with words, sense of humor, and bright imagination are a perfect combination.

My final verdict: everyone should read this book.

Second opinions:

Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things: “I adored this gorgeous, heartfelt book from start to finish and have been recommending it to children and adults alike. The language is lush, full of depth and whimsy and I don’t think there was one chapter where I didn’t want to pick up my red pen, marking passages with large stars and bold underlines in the library’s copy. That will have to wait until I own a copy of my own.”

6 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

  1. I am wondering if it is appropriate for a 6 year old? My 6 year old reads at a 6th grade level, but I want the content to be age-appropriate.

      1. Thank you for the quick response! She is so excited by the title and has been using it in all her imaginary play. (She made a cardboard boat and has been “circumnavigating fairyland” all afternoon.) She so wants to read. It have put it on hold at the library.

  2. I feel similarly to you about this series. It’s something I’ve wanted to read for a while and I see myself loving it, but I don’t read middle grade at all, and so it’s been difficult to convince myself to start haha. I have print versions of these books, but I’m intrigued now by all you’ve said about the audio. If not for this book, maybe I will try using audio for future mg reads.
    I’m also super intrigued by Deathless. I feel like I’ll like that one more. So I guess I’ll just have to see which one I start with first.

    1. THe audio of the first is fantastic! But having the print is good too, because it’s illustrated. Cat Valente didn’t narrated the rest of the series on audio, so I’m going to read them.

      I want to read deathless, too! I just started Palimpset on audio, which is her other adult novel that Fairyland stories were first mentioned in. It’s a dreamy fantasy!

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