the girl who raced fairyland all the way home

Summer Reading: Catherynne M. Valente’s ​Fairyland Series

Welcome to Summer Reading 2017! I’ve written before about the glorious summers of my childhood, when I could devote long uninterrupted hours to burning through enormous Lord of the Ring-type sagas. I’ve also shared the cautionary tale of a dear friend whose parents made her put down her book and play outside, but I’m sure none of our readers could behave in so dastardly a fashion. (NOTE: I am not entirely against the outdoors and exercise and whatnot, but they made her put down her book. Things like that take years of therapy to get over.) With all that in mind, when Amy asked me to do some Summer Reading posts, I decided I wanted to focus on some of my favorite series for children and young people—but only series that have already come to a satisfactory end, as there’s nothing worse than being stuck with a cliffhanger while you wait for an author to hurry up and write, all the while worrying that before they finish they might die in some sort of freak word-processing accident.

I thought I’d start with my very favorite fantasy series. For decades, if you’d asked me what my favorite series was—the books I’d read over and over, the books I’d have to make sure my own kids read, my desert island books—I would have said the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I was (and still am) a hardcore Narnia-head. As a child, I reread the series every summer. I wrote Narnia fanfiction (before ‘fanfiction’ was even a word). I love these books. (NOTE: I know that not everyone loves Narnia because of the Christian allegorical aspects. I completely understand that, but it’s not hampered my own love of the series because I was raised ‘unchurched’ and didn’t even notice that it was a Christian allegory until I was in my late teens or 20’s. I was <ahem> perhaps not the most observant of readers.) But now, if I had to pick one series to keep me company on a desert island, one series to pass along to my kids, I think I’d pick Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books.

The Fairyland books, with one exception, are about September, a 12-year-old girl living in WWII-era Nebraska, with a mechanic mother who works in the aircraft factory and a father missing overseas, until—in the tradition of children who get lost in wardrobes and swept up by passing tornadoes—she catches a ride with the Green Wind and his Leopard. They drop her off in Fairyland, ruled by the evil Marquess, where September soon finds herself on a quest to defeat the Marquess and free her friends. These books are for all ages, beautifully written, with a heroine who relies on her bravery, her intelligence, and her friends to save the day. There is little that is black and white in Fairyland: even the villains have complicated histories of good intentions gone bad, and even the heroes can make poor choices under difficult circumstances. I’ve read these books both for my own enjoyment and as readalouds (which is particularly wonderful, as Valente has a gift with language and original phrasing) and I think they belong on every family’s bookshelf.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

“You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child,” said the Green Wind. “How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes and be delivered to the great sea which borders Fairyland?”

In book one, September visits Fairyland for the first time and meets her soon-to-be-best friends: A-Through-L, a Wyverary, and Saturday, a Marid. (A marid is a type of ifrit or djinn, and a “Wyverary” is the offspring of a wyvern and a library. And honestly, if that isn’t enough to send you out to find this book immediately, I don’t even know what you’re doing hanging around these parts.) Both of her friends are held captive (one way or another) by the evil Marquess, ruler of Fairyland, and September must defeat her to save them.

 

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

In book two, September returns to Fairyland to find that its magic is being sucked away by Fairyland Below, ruled by Halloween, the Hollow Queen. September soon discovers that Halloween is her own shadow, left in Fairyland after her previous adventure, and when she reunites with her friends, A-Through-L and Saturday, she finds that they have shadows also.

 

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

In book three, September returns to Fairyland with her new sidekick, a 1925 Model A Ford, and discovers that she’s been named a criminal, specifically a “royal scofflaw, professional revolutionary, and criminal of the realm.” On a mission to the Fairyland’s Moon, she must defeat a mysterious moon-Yeti and figure out what actually happened to all of Fairyland’s missing fairies. Unlike the first two books, this one ends with something of a cliffhanger, but that’s okay because you can go straight to book four...

 

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

...which begins not with September, but with Hawthorn, a changeling who was born a troll in Fairyland before being spirited away to the human world. I was all set to be annoyed with Valente for swapping out September for another protagonist, but I immediately fell for Hawthorn, who, in an effort to act like a Normal child starts writing a rulebook of Normal behavior (e.g., “Knives and scissors are sharp, but different than swords, and you can only use them to fight cucumbers and onions and packages from the postman, not Ancient Enemies from Beyond Time,” followed by “There are no such things as Ancient Enemies from Beyond Time”). Plus he hangs out with the best wombat ever in the history of wombats. We catch up with September eventually and another cliffhanger leads us straight into the fifth and final book...

 

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home

...where different teams, including September and her best friends (and Hawthorn with his friends) must compete in a Royal Race for the throne of Fairyland. And really, I don’t want to tell you anything more because you should go out and read these fabulous books for yourself. Happy Reading!

 

 


Stuff We Like :: 5.6.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Happy May, everyone! And special thanks to Amy for letting me take over Stuff We Like this week! I’m busy getting ready for the summer Hamilton History class (register today!) so I’ll do my best to limit the number of Hamilton-related links, but I can’t help starting off with one (or two or three…) 

Around the Web

Awesome Hamilton Broadway Crossover Pt. 1: For when you’ve memorized the cast recording and start wondering how other great Broadway shows would sound Hamilton-ized, here’s the cast doing their version of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” (Demon barber Sweeney Todd/I am the demon barber Sweeney Todd…)

Awesome Hamilton Broadway Crossover Pt. 2: A conversation between my favorite Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and my favorite John Adams, aka the actor William Daniels, from the other great Broadway musical about American history (and my favorite July 4th movie-watching tradition), 1776

Speaking of politics, it’s time for my election-year rewatch of The West Wing (I’m also enjoying Joshua Malina’s new podcast The West Wing Weekly) and I was thrilled to see C.J. Cregg herself taking the podium at a recent White House press briefing (and was reminded of these two adorable West Wing PSAs from a few years back—walk and talk, anyone?)

And now that I seem to have established a theme, here’s #Ham4Ham in the West Wing with Cabinet Battle #1 (makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder…)

 

at home | school | life

in the classroom: Speaking of Hamilton, registration is now open for our summer classes

in the store: Also open: registration for our awesome Homeschool 101 workshop

on the blog: I think we can all identify with the messiness of homeschooling

on instagram: Any excuse to quote Umberto Eco

in the archives: What to read next if you loved Lemony Snicket

 

Reading List

My non-fiction reading at the moment is all Hamilton-related—my favorite so far has been Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life (in which I learned that during his second term George Washington himself was challenged “to point out ONE SINGLE ACT which unequivocally proves you a FRIEND to the INDEPENDENCE of AMERICA,” proving that partisan political speech in this country has always been nasty and bone-headed, a fact I find strangely reassuring at this time of year). I’m midway through Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis, a much shorter book which focuses on several specific events of interest to Hamilton fans (the duel, the Jefferson-Hamilton-Madison dinner, etc.) in which Ellis memorably describes the secretary of the Treasury’s “dashing Hamilton-to-the-rescue demeanor.” (Now I want a Hamilton-to-the-rescue t-shirt.)

For lighter, non-Hamilton-related reading, I’ve been working my way through Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries (the racier inspiration for the also-very-enjoyable and exceptionally-pretty-to-look-at television series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) from Cocaine Blues to the latest installment, Murder and Mendelssohn, and am hoping that Greenwood will give us some more, now that I’ve become very fond of the indomitable Phryne and her household of devoted minions.

Current read-aloud: the final book of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, which I confess to reading more slowly than usual, as I’m not ready to say goodbye to this world.

Is it weird that I pre-ordered Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter so that I would get it the day it came out, but haven’t actually read it yet? I like looking at it on my shelf, anticipating how much fun it will be to read, and taking it out every once in a while to admire its encyclopedia-like loveliness and maybe give it a little hug. That’s super-weird, isn’t it?

 

At Home

Superheroes, Pt. 1 (Marvel edition): We’ve already got our tickets for Captain America: Civil War (opening this weekend!) and family relationships are starting to break down along Team Iron Man vs. Team Captain America lines. (For the record, it’s Steve Rogers all the way.)

Superheroes, Pt. 2 (DC edition): Got to catch up on our DVR’d episodes of The Flash (this season is very stressful) and Supergirlcan’t wait to finally see the crossover.

There’s a new Mapp and Lucia on PBS! My well-read copy of E. F. Benson’s Make Way for Lucia is dog-eared and falling apart and I’m a huge fan of the 1980’s adaptation (starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan, and Nigel Hawthorne), so I’m very excited to return to the 1930’s and the seaside town of Tilling.

International Tabletop Day was last Saturday (mark your calendars for next year) and this year we tried out Cash N Guns and Last Night On Earth at a local game store. (Apparently we were feeling a bit violent. We’ll have to play a couple of rounds of Pandemic to save the world and make up for it.) 

Coming up in May: We’ll soon be celebrating my eldest’s 18th birthday AND his high school graduation! I couldn’t be happier to reach such major milestones. I also may be having a small nervous breakdown. Clearly, it’s time to pour a glass of wine and listen to Hamilton.

Have a great week!


Suzanne’s Favorite Books of 2015

Fun list of best books of 2015 created by home|school|life magazine's awesome book columnist. #homeschool

I love this time of year! New beginnings and new resolutions­­—plus all the Best-­Of booklists come out, so I can restock my to­-read list. In the spirit of celebrating last year and looking forward to some seriously good reading in 2016, I thought I’d share some of my favorites of 2015.

Favorite Young Adult

Pure
By Julianna Baggott
The Raven Boys
By Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite First Book of a Post­-Apocalyptic Trilogy Where I Didn’t Love Books Two and Three but Book One is So Good That I Can’t Help Recommending It and You Should Probably Read the Others And Make Up Your Own Mind :: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Favorite First Book of a Contemporary Fantasy Series With Clairvoyants and Ley Lines and Cute Boys Which I Stopped Reading After the First Book Because the Fourth and Final Book is Coming Out in March 2016 and I Want to Read Them All in One Glorious Binge :: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

Favorite Fantasy Heist Novel Which I Didn’t Even Know Was a Thing But Which As a Big Ocean’s Eleven Fan I Was Thrilled to Discover and Even More Thrilled to Learn That It’s the First of an On­-Going Series (NOTE: Maybe Don’t Get Too Attached to All of the Characters in the Heist Crew) :: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

 

Favorite Reading Inspired by My Obsession with the Broadway Musical Hamilton

(Because we’re all obsessed with Hamilton, right? Even those of us who live nowhere near New York and couldn’t afford tickets even if we did and so are forced to make do with listening to the cast album over and over again and singing along while our children mock our hip-­hop skills? If you are not yet obsessed with Hamilton , you have my permission to stop reading briefly to immediately check out the album. As a bonus, it totally counts as a homeschool history lesson.)

Alexander Hamilton
By Ron Chernow
Fever 1793
By Laurie Halse Anderson

Favorite Biography That Inspired it All and At 800-­Some Pages is Maybe Not a Quick Read but Still a Great Book About Our Ten­-Dollar Founding Father Who Just Like His Country Was Young, Scrappy, and Hungry ::Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Favorite Upper­-Elementary/YA Historical Fiction That I Had Been Meaning to Read For Years And Finally Got Around to Because It’s About the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia That Also Sickened Alexander Hamilton :: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Favorite New Sarah Vowell Book About America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman and Alexander Hamilton’s Best Bud the Marquis de Lafayette Which Has, Disappointingly, Not All That Much Hamilton But Which is Wildly Entertaining Nonetheless As Are All of Sarah Vowell’s Books of History :: Lafayette in The Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

 

Favorite Readalouds

Favorite Series That I’m On My Fourth and Probably Last Time Through Reading Aloud Until I Have Grandchildren Many MANY Years From Now :: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Favorite Series That Just Keeps Getting Better and Is Giving Narnia a Run For Its Money As My Favorite Kids’ Fantasy Series of ALL TIME Where We’re Currently Reading Book Four (The Boy Who Lost Fairyland) While Anticipating the Release of the Fifth and Final (Sniff) Book (The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home) in March 2016 ::the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente

Favorite Series by My Favorite Kids/YA Fantasy Author Diana Wynne Jones Where We’re Currently Reading The Magicians of Caprona Which is Turning Out to Be One of My Daughter’s Favorites Because It Has Magical Italian Cats :: the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones

 

And finally:

Favorite Memoir That Examines the Author’s Life in Terms of Her Favorite Literary Heroines (Including Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Shirley, and Jane Eyre) Which Also Has the Best Title of Any Book I’ve Read This Year :: How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis