A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
September is an excellent student, and her remembered lessons from school often come in handy. As in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, author Valente has little time and energy to spare for laggards who can't keep up with her unabashed delight in cool words, and even adults will probably improve their vocabulary. Also, phrases in French and other foreign languages are sometimes important to the story.
Friendship, forgiveness, and family love are strong themes here, as are bravery, resourcefulness, and a strong conscience. The narrator also forces the reader to consider different characters' experience, and how their attitudes and behavior result from it.
Positive Role Models
September continues to delight, undertaking dangerous quests and harrowing challenges to restore the place and help the characters she loves. Her shadowy companions have some of their characters' strong qualities, as well as assorted quirks all their own; many characters teach valuable lessons or come to the rescue in the nick of time, and even the scariest villains turn out to have unexpected good qualities.
Violence & Scariness
While there's no graphic violence, its emotional impact is everywhere. The whole premise of characters' shadows being snatched away to the underworld is sinister, and there are some scary scenes of terrified characters being pursued by the shadow-snatcher. September's father is away at war, and she's afraid he'll be killed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
September is kissed multiple times without her consent; another kiss goes better. While the issues are presented with matter-of-fact breeziness as part of fairy-tale reality rather than dwelt on with prurient interest, some observant kids may have questions about characters' long-lost same-sex loves and other characters' interspecies romances and offspring.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One of the characters who's escaped to Fairyland is fleeing an abusive, drunken father.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, like its predecessor, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, the second book in the series, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, is hugely imaginative, lushly written, and emotionally rich. Some adult subjects, from war and abusive parents to reproduction and same-sex romance, are part of the story's complex fabric, usually to define the scene, the characters, and the connections between worlds. While there's no graphic violence, there are some scary scenes of terrified characters being pursued by a shadow-snatcher bent on taking their shadows to the underworld. Once again, readers will often find themselves consulting a dictionary to keep up with author Catherynne M. Valente's vocabulary (in several languages). Those reading aloud who found themselves unable to continue through their tears at the end of the last book should consider this a heads-up that there are more such extreme moments of poignant sweetness here.
Is It Any Good?
This is a real stunner, a tour de force of imagination and heart with plenty to offer kids and adults, a compelling story, and characters who stick with you long after the last page has been turned. (Good news: Next book in the series is due in October 2013.)
Catherynne M. Valente's writing style is ornately descriptive and gleefully verbose, which might have been a disaster but instead brings lots of unexpected delights with its constant barrage of fanciful characters, comedy, and wise remarks. Ana Juan's illustrations are dark, often funny, and add more dimension to the characters.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.