The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland And Led the Revels There

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Ana Juan.  Feiwel & Friends, 2102.
All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. But, as in their reading and arithmetic and drawing, different children proceed at different speeds. (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.) - from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

This quote was the first of many, many passages in Catherynne M. Valente's first children's book that I fell in love with.  I copied it down.  I ate it like candy.  I worried as I read that a book so full of rich moments of narration would ultimately be bogged down under their flowery weight, overwritten and laughable.  But no.  I continued to love the book.  I wanted to be young September, traveling through a weird, wild Fairyland, saving the fairy world from the evil Marquess.

 Never mind the fact that I was almost 34 years old.  Please.

I have finally read the sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.  (I love these long, crazy titles!)  I was not disappointed.  Indeed, I thought the story was better and meandered less.  September is thirteen now, and traveling back to Fairyland to find that the world has new troubles, troubles that can be traced to September herself.  September must save the shadows of Fairyland, which have been sucked into Fairyland-Below, the underground flipside of Fairyland.  And the queen of that realm is none other than September's own shadow.

I love these books so much.  I read them like a hungry child, yet there are so many things about them I can only appreciate as an adult.  So many wonderful lines.  “The smell of loving is a difficult one to describe, but if you think of the times when someone has held you close and made you safe, you will remember how it smells just as well as I do.”  And another:  “Children are natural practitioners of the Queer and the Questing, for childhood is nothing but a quest through a queer country. Of course, they often have a good deal of trouble with the Quiet.”  I have never read anything else by Valente.  Even this series sprang from an adult title - a book within a book - which was then written and published on her website first.  I so seldom choose books from the "genre" sections of fiction.  Perhaps I should give her other books a try.   I love the illustrator, Ana Juan, though.  Picture book fans, seek out The Jewel Box Ballerinas, Frida, and The Elephant Wish, at the very least.     

I have decided these are children's books for grown-ups.  Grown-ups who still surround themselves with whimsy (my husband has crowned me the Queen of Whimsy - sometimes I'm not so sure that's meant to be a good thing) and would throw on wings and a headdress for fun, if they could possibly get away with it.  

This book was perfect for a late autumn read, Christmas lights twinkling in the next room, stove-popped popcorn and hot chocolate on hand.  
Time permitting, I think I'll pay a visit to the weird world of Wildwood next - another sequel awaits! - while continuing the trek to the Emerald City and stranger places in the fairyland of Oz.  I can't wait to take my youngest to The Dainty China Country for the first time!  

As always:

Merry Weekend and Happy Reading!

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  1. I keep hearing about this book - what a great quote from it! Looking forward to reading it!

    1. I really, really do love them both. I need to own the first book - I checked it out from work in hardcover two Julys ago. I want a hardcover copy, since my sequel is hardcover. I'm so picky.

  2. I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THESE. I have no idea why I haven't gotten on this ages ago! Thanks for the push!!!


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