Welcome back, MSM readers!
This week’s first recommendation is The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s technically a “middle grade” novel, but I read it in college and loved it, so I would recommend it for any age. The title is a mouthful, and honestly so is the writing style sometimes. Valente is well-known for her flowery, poetic, intricate sentences, and she certainly didn’t tone down the complexity for this book, even though its target audience is 10- to 12-year-olds. But don’t let that put you off! I like to describe Valente’s writing style like a delicious, savory slice of cake; whether you read it aloud or silently to yourself, her writing somehow tastes good. “Fairyland” tells the story of a girl from Omaha named September, who is swept away on an adventure to Fairyland by the Green Wind. The new ruler of Fairyland, a young girl named the Marquess, demands September fetch a certain talisman for her or else she will make life in the kingdom miserable for everyone. What follows is a grand adventure, complete with friends (including a part-Wyvern, part-library creature named “the Wyverary”) and magic. The biggest reason I recommend this book is its character study of the Marquess. If you’re a fan of villains with sympathetic, heartbreaking backstories, then you’ll definitely love “Fairyland.” I like to describe this book as The Hobbit meets Narnia meets Alice in Wonderland, and it’s so good that I’d even argue it deserves its place among those timeless classics. It also includes some beautiful illustrations.
The second book I want to recommend this week is the first book in a manga series called Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma. This series is hilarious, wholesome, and just plain adorable. Yotsuba is a strange four-year-old girl with green hair that she wears in four ponytails, like a four-leaf clover. No one knows where she came from. But like her adoptive father, you will soon find yourself not caring all that much about Yotsuba’s mysterious past, because you’ll love her unconditionally as if she were your own family. Each chapter follows Yotsuba through her seemingly mundane childhood–but of course, through the bright eyes of a child, even the most boring daily task can become an adventure. Issue 1 introduces us to Yotsuba as she and her father move into a new apartment in Tokyo. There she meets (and completely baffles) her new neighbors, develops a newfound fear of air conditioners, and adjusts to city life. A simple description of the plot may not sound all that exciting, but trust me: your stomach will hurt from laughing at Yotsuba’s antics. There are currently 14 issues in total, with more on the way. I’ve read all of them, and every time I picked one up–whether I had time to read just one page or one whole chapter–I’d have a huge smile on my face by the time I put the book down. In fact, the tagline of the series is “Enjoy Everything!” a gentle reminder to never lose your childhood enthusiasm. Kiyohiko Azuma does a wonderful job capturing that mindset in his creation of Yotsuba, whose giddy, happy personality is seriously contagious.
So there you have it for Week 6. I hope these stories bring you as much joy as they brought to me.
Ms. Lee Ann Kostempski, Library Media Specialist