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Ceridwen

Ceridwen

You kids get off my lawn. 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - Ana Juan, Catherynne M. Valente A flaxen bit of fairy down which has surprising weight to it when you go to grab it out of the air. September, a Midwestern girl living during WWII, takes the hand of the wind and is whisked into an adventure in fairyland. The narrator is one of those winking sorts, who comes in jabbing you in the ribs or lamenting her own tale. This may sound awful to some, but I thought the pitch was perfect, an acknowledgement of the song while it was being sung. Reminded me strongly of the narrator in The Hobbit, who is so companionable and chummy with the reader.

Like many children, September is wise enough to know the rules of Fairyland, even if they weren't laid out for her by the wind, but, like many children, she disregards them with a legalistic glee. Her adventures were not as determined as I sometimes find in literary fairy tales, without a hard conclusion looming over the purple horizon, without a snicking plot that you can feel leading link by link to commentary on the mechanics of plot. (Not that here is anything wrong with that.) I liked the tumbling quality, September and the reader rolling tail over teakettle. The lessons learned were neither obvious nor easily summed, and the ending satisfying but loose.

I found the prose here incredibly enjoyable, employing wordplay and puns, deploying 50 cent pieces in with the clear, straightforward sense of the action. I always like when writers give their child readers some credit. And I'm struggling here a bit, because I'm trying not to use the word "original" - that is loaded with value judgments I try not to evoke - seriously, if your fairy tale is wholly original, ur doing it rong - but some of the details of fairyland are so weird, so strange. A lantern with green arms who cradles our September when she is at her lowest and most despairing, a wyvern who is the son of a library, a city knit entirely out of cloth.

The villain is heartbreaking, though I do not think I can go into the mechanics of why she breaks my heart without spoilers. (I will just wink this to people who have read this: makes certain aspects of the ending of [b:The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe|100915|The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)|C.S. Lewis|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51zAZqgAloL._SL75_.jpg|4790821] seem much more tragic than I'd felt before, much more casually cruel.) Children often create worlds to escape to when there is something to escape from; that love can shift when fairyland offers no real protections from the hardness of life. That's what breaks my heart.

Phew! I don't want to end all dire with my review, because this does not end dire. It's a sweet book, a bookish book, a dreamer's book. It's blurbed by Gaiman and Beagle, and it deserves its blurbs. There are even little wood-blocks that are not exactly to my taste, but still well done, making a nice reading experience. So comfortable, like a dream half-remembered upon waking. Mmmmm.