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The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Review

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Written by Catherynne M. Valente and illustrated by Ana Juan

The third installment of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series brims with the whimsical characters, imaginative adventures and achingly beautiful wisdom that readers have come to expect from these books. But this time, our heroine, September, teeters on the boundary between childhood and adulthood and worries about who she will become when she grows up. Like the other Fairyland books, THE GIRL WHO SOARED OVER FAIRYLAND AND CUT THE MOON IN TWO will captivate all readers who have dreamed of escaping to a fantasy world and wanted to keep that world forever.

"The book’s bizarre and memorable characters, delightfully fantastical imagery, and wise heart make this a book you will want to read a second time. A third, even."

When we reunite with September, she is waiting for one of the Winds to collect her and take her back to Fairyland. September was admitted to this magical place on a Persephone visa, remember, and this means that she must return every year. Unlike the poor Pevensies who age out of Narnia, sometimes due to their budding sexuality, September will continue to visit Fairyland forever, and perhaps even strike up a romance while there. Like the Pevensies, September is living through World War II; her father has just returned from war with an injured leg, and her mother took to mechanical work, a skill that she passed along to her daughter. September is learning to drive, and she already knows the inner workings of the car beneath its hood. Despite the satisfaction she derives from this privilege, it does not compare to Fairyland. This year, the wait for Fairyland is lasting longer than expected. September’s classmates are starting to giggle in the hallways about their crushes, but September just wants to return to Fairyland to see A-through-L, the Wyverary and Saturday, the young Marid.

When she finally does get swept off to Fairlyand, it is a Blue Wind that comes to collect her, not the Green Wind to which she has become accustomed. Blue Winds are harsher than Green Winds, and indeed, they are not often invited to Wind gatherings. September soon learns that she will not be able to go to Fairyland proper, at least not yet. First, she will need to investigate a recent disturbance on the moon. A Yeti has been driving all of the Fairies off of the moon, and the Fairies fear that he means to destroy it in an act of revenge. The Yeti’s exact plans are unknown, but the moon keeps shaking, dislodging Fairies and pieces of itself, and September is determined to stop him and save Fairyland before it is crushed by the antics of the Yeti.

The true magic of the Fairyland series is in Valente’s unique voice. She narrates September’s adventures like an old-fashioned storybook. Resonances of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ and THE ADVENTURES OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND abound, but Fairyland is its own distinct work. A reader should not be surprised if she finds herself reading out it aloud.

The passages most likely to be reflexively read aloud are those in which the narrator makes her presence known. When September has made a questionable choice or claim, the narrator steps in to address the reader directly and correct September’s mistake as a benevolent guardian would. The narrator will never, however, address September directly, and confesses to being slightly “cruel” in her refusal. Instead, she appeals to the reader. These soliloquies achieve a piercing truthfulness of such eloquent simplicity that one cannot help but roll the words around in her mouth. As much heart as Valente conveys, she never comes across as sappy; she is always wise, dispensing the kind of observations on life that one rarely hears articulated so beautifully.

Valente writes similar passages of heartfelt philosophy through the voices of her many peculiar characters. Each character utters at least a few clever turns of phrase that stick in the mind like catchy and poignant songs. There is a giant whelk who allows an entire town to live inside his shell, and he tells September about the power of love and feeling needed. An argumentative donkey  teaches September about the power of disagreement and saying “no.” September encounters a great number of other characters along the way, some of whom will be familiar to followers of the series and most of whom will be new, and each has a story to tell. Every story is touching, tragic or empowering. Some are all three. As September grapples with love, identity and the question of fate, her adventures and conversations give her insight into the complexity of her dilemmas.

Although categorized as middle grade, these books have remarkable crossover power for older readers as well. Valente weaves folklore and mythology throughout her books, and readers of all ages will delight in recognizing her nods to ancient stories. The book’s bizarre and memorable characters, delightfully fantastical imagery, and wise heart make this a book you will want to read a second time. A third, even. You will certainly want to read it aloud to a few people too. Valente’s Fairyland series is destined to become a classic.

Reviewed by Caroline Osborn on October 18, 2013

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
(Fairyland #3)
Written by Catherynne M. Valente and illustrated by Ana Juan

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2013
  • Genres: Children's, Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • ISBN-10: 1250023505
  • ISBN-13: 9781250023506