Profile: Children’s Literature, Fantasy, Fairyland
Catherynne M. Valente is a sleeper nod for the title of my favorite author. She combines the vocabulary of China Meiville with the storytelling sensibilities of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pulman’s eye for children’s adventure. And in my previous review of her Fairyland series, I compared her favorably to L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis and Lewis Carol. But what I think most impresses me about her work is the credit she gives her young readers. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland is a much darker work than its prequel and deals with the consequences of actions and taking responsibility. Somehow, Valente is able to approach these topics with seriousness in an absurd world, and more impressively, never comes off as preachy.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There picks up a year after September’s departure from Fairyland in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. We gloss quickly over some of the mundane events of her life in Nebraska during World War II before flying off to Fairyland again. This time the trip is colored more by the events of the real world. Magic is being rationed and the wonder of the place is starting to evaporate. September discovers that she is indirectly responsible for the problems, as it is her own shadow who is siphoning off both the shadows and magic of Fairyland to fuel the glorious revels of Fairyland Below. Feeling responsible for this turn of events, September sets off to put things to rights, even though she doesn’t really know how.