6 Reasons Why Cat Valente’s Fairyland Is Perfect for Travelers

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Emma Nichols

Staff Writer

Emma Nichols is a career bookseller. Though she expected to grow up to be a librarian, or a witch, she's quite happy with how things are working out. Officially, she specializes in children's books and manages their book fairs; unofficially, she is passionate about short stories and spreadsheets. When not evangelizing her favorite books to unsuspecting customers, she can be heard discussing books and bookselling on her podcast Drunk Booksellers. Her other hobbies include organizing her books, taking pictures of her cat, and binge-re-watching her favorite TV shows. Blog: The Bibliot Twitter: @thebibliot

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. ValenteRecently I’ve had a lot of friends leave me—for long trips or big moves; I swear I’m not driving them away. The relationships vary, but the gift I give does not. Everyone gets a copy of Cat Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. The giving hardly varies either: I thrust the book into their hands, eyes glowing, fervently insisting that, if they bring nothing else, they must take this book with them. September, the 12 year-old protagonist, is the perfect travel companion. It doesn’t matter where you’re going. Here are six good reasons why September is a necessity.

  1. September is always up for an adventure. Whether she’s hopping on the back of a flying Leopard, questing for a witch, or crashing a wedding, September does not often say no to adventure and opportunity.
  2. September is able to get creative about travel methods. I don’t want to give too much away, but—as the title suggests—she builds her own boat and circumnavigates an entire land. Pretty impressive.
  3. September teaches self-reliance. When she is unceremoniously dropped into the Perverse and Perilous Sea and washed ashore, there is no one and nothing as far as the eye can see. September, ever the unwavering traveler, responds with a level head: “…it’s all certainly very strange, but… I can’t stay on the beach all day like a sunbather. A girl in want of a Leopard still has feet.” And she sets off. She has no idea where she is, she knows absolutely no one, and she takes it all in stride (literally).
  4. September is curious. If you’re going on an adventure, you need to be prepared to ask a lot of questions. A few things September has questioned: “Is she very terrible?” “Is it very far?” “Is that soup?” “Well… what DO witches do, then?”
  5. September is a realist. She knows every journey involves losses as well as gains. She doesn’t fear the former because the latter makes it all worthwhile. “It will all be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too… And it’s the wonders I’m after, even if I have to bleed for them.”
  6. September is willing to overthrow a government she finds unjust.

You may think that last reason is not necessary in a travel companion, but you really never know what you’ll get into on a long journey. Don’t most end in something or someone being overthrown? In short, September teaches you to expect the unexpected, to be prepared to feel unprepared. And, in the face of all this, to be brave, level-headed, and savvy.

Though I give this book to friends taking actual journeys, I see September as a kind of spiritual guide, a companion whether your journey is real or metaphorical. She is so earnestly willing—to try new things, to meet new people, to help anyone and everyone in need. In her own words, “I’m not very tall, but I have a Spoon and a sceptre, and I will protect you if I can.” She’s got your back.