Stacia's Reviews > Summerland

Summerland by Michael Chabon
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's review
Apr 08, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-for-kids

READ THIS BOOK. Then read it to your children, especially the boys, or the girls who've yet to fall under the Twilight spell. Read it them while they are still young enough to believe in fairy tales (per CS Lewis), and then let them read it again on their own. Read it if you or they love baseball; read it if you're put off by Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time> because of their underlying Christian theology and wish there was something as magical as those books without the baggage; read it if you love those two books and wish there was something as good as those for our time; read it with a fox, in a box,in a house, with a mouse, read it here or there, read it anywhere. Just read this damn book, okay?

Indebted equally to E.B. White (master stylists who turn their hand to children's literature); CS Lewis (children crossing into magical lands and encountering all that which is rumored to be just rumor); Joseph Campbell (the universality of heroes), Michael Chabon has created a piece of literature for the still-able-to-believe-in-magic set that is meant to reside on the bookshelf with those-considered-classics, and which yet demands its own spotlighted space. Interweaving multiple mythologies and legend strains--baseball, Native American, Scandinavian, Celtic faerie, 19th century American Tall Tales and a brief nod to Greek -- Summerlands proffers not only all are stories true, but that all stories are one. To wit: Chiron Brown has scouted heroes ranging from Achilles, to Moses, to the current protagonists Ethan Feld and Jennifer T. Rideout; the book's villain, Coyote, is variously know as Loki, Shaitan, the Raven, among other incarnations. Faeries (fair folk, ferishers), Sasquatches, Yetis, werewolves, shapeshifters and the Three Fates all make their appearances; one is, thankfully spared the appearance of either Shoeless Joe Jackson or a vampire for the entire course of the book.

There's more than enough for the moderately well-read adult (parent, aunt, uncle, fairly oddparent) to gnaw upon -- ranging from subtle reference to Arthur Dent's packing (Ethan takes a toothbrush, but, surprisingly, not a towel), or a bittersweet allusion to David Foster Wallace (one character cannot eat lobster because they can not distance themselves from the thought of whether the lobster feels pain as its immersed in boiling water), to guess-which-Big-Liar-is-which-American-Tall-Tale-Character. (If you can't at least establish who is Paul Bunyan, John Henry and Pecos Bill, you have some supplemental reading to do.) And, claiming its space in geek literature, the book is immensely quotable. But while the grown-ups are chewing over those flavorful pieces of gristle, the young'uns will be captivated by the main plot. Which is (as distilled for my son, before handing the book off to him): A boy and his best friend (a girl, but one you'd like to hang out with) save the world by playing baseball. And that alone is probably on the only reason one needs to read this book.

A word of warning, however: It could, perhaps, be the source of any number of senior's theses in American Studies/Comp Lit come the year 2022.

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