by Catherynne M. Valente
ages: 11+, good for read aloud 6+
First sentence: "Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents' house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog."
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Once upon a time, there was a blogger who got an email about a book. This book had a very long, somewhat pretentious title, and the blogger thought to herself, "It can't be any good" and proceeded to delete that email.
Then she started seeing reviews of it pop up all over the place, reviews saying how wonderful and amazing and delightful this little book with the long, pretentious title is. And still she said to herself, "It can't be true" and didn't read the book.
Then, one day, while she was shelving other titles, she saw the book, and picked it up. Once she had it in her hands, she began to question her firm belief that this book wasn't any good. And so, she checked it out.
And was absolutely delighted.
To be sure, she is not sure that September's story and adventures in Fairyland would be appealing to children. The book is pretentious and precocious, and not at all something that she can see many 10-year-olds picking up. Sure, there's magic and danger and adventure, but it's not flashy or laugh-out-loud hilarious. The language is a bit advanced, and she thinks that Valente sometimes talks down to the reader (and sometimes talks over the reader as well).
And yet, there's a whimsicality about it all, a sense of timelessness, of a telling of Every Story, that makes this story work. She could envision reading it aloud to her children, smiling at the humorous asides, being afraid at the tense moments, sharing the adventure. It would be a delight, actually, to read this book aloud. She also found herself captivated by September and her adventures, as well as the sometimes fickle narrator, though she has to admit that her favorite character is the Green Wind, even though he only briefly appears.
At any rate, she regrets not getting to this one sooner, and since it's always better to get to things later than never, she's happy she finally arrived at the gala, giving this story its' much deserved happily-ever-after.