The title of this book by Catherynne M. Valente is a mouthful, but it completely suits this adventure that is complex yet completely enjoyable. This book has received a ton of praise since its publication in 2011, and every bit of it is well-deserved.
Appealing to fans of modern works by folks like Neil Gaiman and Peter S. Beagle, this book reminded me so much of L. Frank Baum's adventures in Oz, of Alice in Wonderland, and a Narnia sans sexism (sorry, I've never forgiven Lewis's Santa Claus for his comments about women and war, along with some other bits...). Valente's language is lush and lyrical, but it doesn't pull the reader out of the story at all. Her voice is perfectly suited to telling an adventure in fairyland, and she doesn't talk down to her child audience at all.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the adventure of September, a twelve-year-old girl who longs for adventure, and her journey through Fairyland to help save its denizens from an evil leader. Along the way, she meets some rather interesting friends and companions, who are very well developed and will capture hearts immediately. Readers will become very attached to a book-loving Wyverary, a blue boy, an orange lantern, and more, and will learn and grow alongside September.
The thing I found most fascinating about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is that Valente explores the question of what happens to these people who enter magical worlds--only to be yanked out again. How do Alice, Dorothy, Lucy, and others feel when they spend so much time in a magical world, make dear friends, have adventures, and then suddenly have to return back to the normal world? What's it like to grow up and then suddenly have to return to being a child? I've always imagined it would be utterly heartbreaking. Valente's take on it is thought-provoking and moving.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book to adults and middle grade people alike.
Melanie R. Meadors is an author of fantasy where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She is a blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, a professional author publicist, and a dabbling fiber artist. She studied both physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.