Folklore is my favorite genre because it can be super small and specific to one group, or huge and universal. I love fairy tales, both new and retold. When a talented writer works with the motifs to create something new, I’m always thrilled that they’ve made it comfortable and familiar without writing a cliché. I’ve talked about this in other reviews, and it’s a thrill to see it done. Sometimes you get a book that follows the path and there’s no surprises. It might be a nice journey, but it doesn’t really impress you. Sometimes you get a book that tries something new and fails. But then you find a book that is wonderful all around, and Valente wrote one of those for us.
September is twelve years old and lives in Omaha. Her father is off fighting in the war and her mother is in the factories making planes to help with the war effort. September is bored, frustrated and angry. A Green Wind shows up and takes her away to Fairyland, letting her know that help is needed and that maybe she’ll be the girl to save them all.
Her introduction to Fairyland was really funny. She has to go through a TSA-like procedure to get a passport and cross over. I loved how Valente did this. It’s still a familiar story, but there’s a pause into the absurd before September can carry on.
Of course she’s going to meet characters along the way, take up quests, solve problems, and learn about herself. It wouldn’t be a fairy tale if she didn’t. She gains a wonderful companion, a Wyverary who knows everything A-Through-L. Like many characters in many tales, I wanted him to be real so we could hang out.
September learns that the good Queen has been missing for a very long time and the evil Marquess is now in control and wants to make life miserable for all of Fairyland’s residents. September, of course, must confront the Marquess, but before she can do so, she must follow the folklore path and learn more about Fairyland.
I loved the structure of this book so much. The nameless author has asides for the reader, and this almost always works for me, especially in kids’ books. I would get stupidly excited when I was young because I thought it was hilarious when the author broke the fourth wall to talk directly to me about what was happening in the book. Seeing it as an adult, it makes me feel like that giggling little kid again. Sometimes it can be annoying if the author tries too hard, but Valente uses it well and it adds to the story.
I liked the twists and reveals. There was one that I saw coming, but another one was a surprise. The book is targeted for a middle reader audience but it works on many levels. There are traditional themes, nods to female protagonists that have explored tales before September’s journey, modern ideas, and a little bit of information about Rosie the Riveter.
I’m happy there will be more in this series and I hope to see more with September and her mother, although I can’t wait to hear about A-Through-L’s adventures.
Super cute, super fun, and a wonderful take on the classic motifs.