A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is, as the title suggests, uncompromising in its expectation that readers will be able to cope with big words, suspend their disbelief, and get into the story. It's so vivid, imaginative, thought-provoking, and heartstring-pulling that it's hard to resist. In this first of a planned five volumes, various characters, particularly protagonist September, show great bravery, especially when they're terrified. There are plenty of scary moments, including encounters with Death itself. Appealing characters are enslaved, held captive, or in mortal danger, while others suffer terrible, fateful losses, and difficult choices. At least one character is pregnant for part of the story, and the child of two others appears in a flash-forward, but the reproduction involved seems more magical than sexual, as another character is the offspring of a mythical beast and a library.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In 1940s Omaha, 12-year-old September's life is hard; her father has gone to war, and her mother spends her days working in an airplane factory. One day a Green Wind riding on a leopard arrives and offers to take her to Fairyland. Off she goes, encountering comic and scary characters who send her off on various quests, which often turn out to involve surprising friendships and hard choices, as well as strange connections between worlds.
Is it any good?
Author Catherynne M. Valente's briskly elegant style simply snatches you into the narrative before you quite know what's happening. Amid its many critical raves, THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING has drawn comparisons to everything from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to The Phantom Tollbooth, with the immediate disclaimer that it's a true original. However improbable the sequence of witches, monsters, fairies, and mythical creatures, the intricate story works like a Swiss watch with its own internal logic. The characters are unforgettable and complex, and artist Ana Juan's vivid, often foreboding illustrations bring them to life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how there are many books these days about kids being whisked away to Fairyland. What others have you read, and how does this one compare?
What do you know about the lives of families during World War II? Did members of your family go off to war and factory work, leaving their kids alone? How did everybody cope?
The narrator describes September as "somewhat heartless": Do you think this is accurate? Why or why not?
- Author: Catherynne M. Valente
- Illustrator: Ana Juan
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
- Publication date: May 10, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love Fantasy and adventure
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.