Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1) by Catherynne Valente

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)
Author:  Catherynne Valente
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Original Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Pages: 247

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.” 
― George Bernard Shaw

I love reading, and I want my future children, and my future children’s children to love it too. I cannot however, just as any form or object of love, force them to love it too, what I can do however is guide them in learning to love it, by helping them sort through the millions of books out there, directing them to the good ones, to the really really good ones. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making now occupies a special place in that future for my children. This goes to show that I too enjoyed this book. 

The book’s narration shifts back and forth from an omniscient narrator to the second person point of view. The usage of the technique is wonderful. It radiates the feeling that the book itself is telling you the story, an aspect that perhaps highlights the book’s age appropriateness as a children’s literature. The narration gives of a lively, vibrant and engaging narration. There are a lot of references to creatures of fantasy both familiar and unique to the book which is in keeping to its general plot. These creatures however are vividly portrayed in manner that will not give children the nightmares. I do not recall encountering big words, jargons, or technical definitions. The conversations were natural, crisp and direct. What sets this book apart from most children’s lit is the prose with which Valente wrote in. It is neither an exaggeration nor romanticism in play when I say that this is one of the most fluid and beautiful prose I’ve have read. The book cover and the drawings are adorable. The book’s entirety is simply riveting. 

As most children’s books go, this is no exception to its class in its distinctive features in respect of the substance and weight of its message, subtlety in delivery of that message and of course the conclusion, to which I am reminded again that it is us, adults who have suffered through a decadence of belief and imagination, who need dumbing downs in our daily serving of dreams, fantasy, and literature. Let me liberally quote statements from the book which adults know of as reality.

“And she definitely wanted to get somewhere, even if she didn’t know where somewhere was. (25)”

“But splendid things are often frightening. Sometimes, it’s the fright that makes them splendid at all. (39)”

And one of my personal favorites…
“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 crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living.(56)”

“Of course not. No one is chosen. Not ever. Not in the real world. You chose to climb out of your window and ride on a Leopard. You chose to get a witch’s Spoon back and to make friends with a Wyvern. You chose to trade your shadow for a child’s life. You chose not to let the Marquess hurt your friend—you chose to smash her cages! You chose to face your own death, not to balk at a great sea to cross and no ship to cross it in. And twice now, you have chosen not to go home when you might have, if only you abandoned your friends. You are not the chosen one, September. (162)”

These are some of the messages in this book to which pales however to the message its entirety seeks to impart, that of loving, losing and letting go. Truly it is a masterpiece to deliver this kind of real life lessons in a medium such as children’s book and still convey it without loss of substance. I will be looking forward to the other books in this series with delight, designate a special place in my future children’s book shelves and definitely recommend it to someone looking for a delightful read.  

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