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

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

This is the third book in the trilogy:
Book 1: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Book 2: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

I have to sort of shamefacedly admit my relief at being finished with this series. I had hoped some of the goodwill I had at the end of The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There would sustain me through this one and quite sadly, that was not the case.  I can understand why this series is so lauded.  Valente is an exceptional writer with a vast and impressive vocabulary, an ability to create breathtakingly beautiful worlds and weave all manner of societal commentary throughout.  But the ability to do that does not necessarily mean the book itself is particularly readable, especially for young audiences.  You have to be the type of person who likes this sort of thing, and then beyond that, you have to have, hopefully, both an excellent vocabulary and an incredible ability to make sense of text when you don’t even know the meaning of many of the words you encounter. As much as I have recommended this for strong readers in Grades 5 and up, as teacher, I would strongly advocate doing a very thorough comprehension check with a student before allowing it to be a book that is read in class.  In terms of recreational reading or for family read alouds, the stakes are different.

September had become accustomed to being summoned to Fairyland, so she was quite put out when the summer came and she found herself still very much in Nebraska.  But opportunity soon struck as she found a way in. Soon she is where she’d longed to be, driving a neighbor’s Model A Ford that somehow came along for the journey.  This particular journey takes us to the Moon, on a mission to deliver a package and stop the shaking which is causing great harm. The trip featured less action and many more lengthy speeches and wonderings which made it all the less exciting for me as a reader.  But if the question is about whether September, at 14, is suddenly having more mature adventures, the answer would have to be, no.  Nothing occurs that is not hinted heavily at already in the prior books, certainly nothing racy or lascivious in any way.  If a reader has gone through the first two in the series, to my mind, there’s nothing marking this third as out of reach.  Aside from all that philosophy.  And all those vocabulary words.

The vocabulary that particularly caught my eye included: incandescent, dastardly, persnickety, phlegmy, ululating, gasbagging (NB: googling this term will turn up an urban dictionary entry which is not suitable for children), stoicism, regimes, dissolution, deposed, hypocrites, chagrin, concatenating, traipsing, consternation, viridian, Numismatists, pecuniary, haughty, phrenologist, sedition, surreptitiously, cozen, chicaneries, diaphanous, dialectics, philippics, diatribe, harangue, edified, gnomon.  This books strange creatures include: psychopomps, klabautermann, dimetrodons (well, those are real at least), cyclops, basilisk, Naiads, strega, Marid and of course, yeti.

This spoiler refers to a plot point that is vaguely related to the maturity factor but I can’t imagine would really be a deal-breaker for anyone.

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Age Recommendation: I’m tempted to go for Grades 6 and up on this one just because of the degree of difficulty but not really due to the content.  It’s far less violent than its predecessors frankly.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – Girls and boys are beginning to date.  A horse gets pregnant.  September reads about someone who is choosing a husband by admiring the legs of the men in question.  Saturday is shirtless.  September finds him beautiful. Two people kiss, it is brief.  There’s an “I love you.” Ell speculates that when September disappeared she might have grown up and “mated”. A pair of bugs are going to kiss. There’s handholding.  A yeti was going to kiss a mountain and marry it in secret.  The moon gives birth.  There is another kiss between September and Saturday.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – The war is still on (in the real world). A puffin carries a poleax. A girl is slapped in the face.  They recall that in prior books a Minotaur was shot and a Marid was wrestled half to death.  A yeti’s paw was caught in a trap so it gnawed its own hand off at the wrist and dripped blood everywhere.  People take to speeding up time and it is causing people to die of old age way ahead of time.  Someone has a bloody lip.  There’s a discussion of drinking blood.  September once burned someone with an iron.  September fears she has broken her leg.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A girl smokes a pipe.  There is a cigarette seller. A creature’s pelt is the color of rum.  Wanderwhiskey is broken over a ship’s bow.  September drinks something that tastes a bit of brandy.
Frightening or Intense Things – September’s father was wounded in the war and continues to be in terrible pain from his injury. A piece of bullet remains in his thigh.  There are Yetis which are described in a scary way.  At the end, a parent is missing a child and is distraught.

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