Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #27)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne Valente
Pages: 247
Age Range: 10+
Published: 2011
Genre: Fantasy
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ***
Rating: G

In the midst of WWII, young September finds herself being whisked away from her Nebraska home on the back of a leopard headed to Fairyland. She has a series of adventures ala Alice in Wonderland, meets an amazing array of creatures, comes face to face with a wicked queen and must save her friends and sacrifice herself in order to return home (and more importantly to September, be able to return again to Fairyland.)

This book has gotten a lot of buzz in the blogosphere and I can definitely see its merits but try as I might I just never found myself becoming lost in its magical world. It’s beautifully written. The language is flowery and old-fashioned giving it the feel of a timeless classic in the vein of E. Nesbit or the Oz adventures.  The plot, characters and scenery are all creatively inventive from the Wyverary (a wyvern with a library for a father) to the golem made of soap.  And some of the conversations and ‘logic’ rival those put forth in The Phantom Tollbooth.  Here’s a quick sample:

"When you are born," the golem said softly, "your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk...and fear and knowing how bad things can get you and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all...So every once in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the works going or else you'll never be brave again." (pg. 60)
"Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble." (pg. 36)

Lovely, yes? Many, many others will agree. But as I said, I just never fell completely under its spell.  Perhaps it was just my mood and I had I read it on any other day I would have felt differently. I will keep it on my backburner as a potential re-read but my first taste I would have to judge as pleasant but not exquisite. Read it for yourself and tell me what you think.  Do you agree or am I completely off base?  I’d love to know!

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