“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.”
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is infinitely clever. It is gorgeously written; a dog-ear-every-other-page-for-the-wonder-of-this-line-or-that-image type of story. It is a just-out-of-the-oven batch of cookies, the scent released by the laundry vent when clothes are tumbling in the dryer; it is the first firework in the sky and the last, the day before your very first vacation. It twists and turns and wraps back around and makes you giddy with delighted dizziness. It is a book that needs to be read and thought about and held and cherished. It is a book that I, in very short order, came to love with my whole being. So I am going to say now, before I say anything more: Get yourself a copy of this book.*
Have you ever read a story that made you feel like you were wearing the skin of your younger self? A book that brought back the joy of discovering magic in words and the pictures they give shape to, reeling in your mind like a film made only for you? The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… was just that kind of book for me.
This entire post could be comprised of quote after quote, and that would be that. It would go on for days and your finger would tire from scrolling. Because, while it’s not habit, I dog-eared the advanced reader’s edition I read within an inch of its papered life; every page, it seemed, presented something remarkable, a sentence or paragraph that glinted like a new penny under the summer sun. And because of that, I’m going to break protocol and include a couple of bits that caught my fancy - I simply cannot not share – but keep in mind that said agonized-over-which-bits-to-choose bits are coming from an uncorrected proof and may change in the final copy.
“I came for you, September. Just you. I wish you the best that can be hoped for, and worse than can be expected.” He leaned in close and kissed her cheek, courtly, gentle, dry as desert wind. The Leopard licked her hand passionately.
“Close your eyes,” he whispered.
September did. She felt a warm, sunny wind on her face, full of the smells of green things: mint and grass and rosemary and fresh water, frogs and leaves and hay. It blew her dark hair back, and when she opened her eyes, the Green Wind and the Leopard of Little Breezes had gone. In her ear floated his last airy sigh: check your pockets, my chimney-child.
The sun hitched up her trousers and soldiered on up into the sky. September squinted at it and wondered if the sun here was different than the sun in Nebraska. It seemed gentler, more golden, deeper. The shadows it cast seemed more profound. But September could not be sure. When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That 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.
Of this book, Tamora Pierce said: “September is a clever, fun, stronghearted addition to the ranks of bold, adventurous girls.” Yes, she is all that. Until you meet September for yourself, however, it’s a difficult task to point to any one or even two things that make her all that and more. And beside, as wonderful as September is, she would not shine quite so without all the heart-grabbing characters that surrounded her: the Green Wind, the wyvern A-Through-L, Saturday, and Mr. Map in particular wormed their way under my skin and refuse to budge. Not that I’d try to oust them; I’m quite content to keep and revisit them.
Characters and world-building aside – and though I haven’t and won’t go into the world-building in any depth, believe me, it’s sugar and spice and all things amazing – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… is also an example of metafiction at its most clever, charming and effective best. The kindly, beneficent narrator pulls back the curtain at precisely the right moments, allowing the reader to glimpse and overhear, and gently explains when doing so would be akin to spoiling a good shiver or losing a delicious indrawn breath of anticipation.
There is so much I’d like to say about this book, so many things I’d like to hold up and say look, look at this!, but can’t for fear of robbing you of the discovery of those very things. As it is, I feel guilt over those quoted bits above, which I included with the very best, See. Right? intentions. Even if you don’t tumble heels over head for this book as I did, I’m willing to lay odds that you will find something that will make you smile or coo, something that you will adore and want to polish and put out for your friends and neighbors to see. And so with that in mind I’ll urge you again: Get yourself a copy of this book.
Sink in and enjoy.
*When it finds its way onto shelves on May 10th, that is.