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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A coming of age fantasy baseball quest
"Summerland" is Michael Chabon's entry into the youth fantasy genre, and it's not a bad read, but I would really call it an adult's kid book. It's not "Harry Potter" or "The Thief Lord" which are geared toward a youth market.
The story is set on fictitious Clam Island in Washington state's San Juan islands, where there is a place on the western side of the island...
Published on October 22, 2003 by Jack Fitzgerald

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63 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really for adults, and derivative of Gaiman
Ok I give it 3 stars, but that was with high expectations. A first time author would have got 4 stars.
This might be a great book for kids (really precocious well-read kids), but as an adult, it wasn't really for me (although I did read and enjoy the Harry Potter books, so I am probably part of Miramax's target market).
If you have read Neil Gaiman's American...
Published on September 21, 2002 by Andrew Boer


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A coming of age fantasy baseball quest, October 22, 2003
By 
Jack Fitzgerald "JFD" (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
"Summerland" is Michael Chabon's entry into the youth fantasy genre, and it's not a bad read, but I would really call it an adult's kid book. It's not "Harry Potter" or "The Thief Lord" which are geared toward a youth market.
The story is set on fictitious Clam Island in Washington state's San Juan islands, where there is a place on the western side of the island that never sees rain during the summer. This is Summerland, and it is where the local little league teams play their games.
An eleven year old boy on one of the teams, Ethan Feld, is not much of a ballplayer, but he's friends with Jennifer T. Rideout, one of the best players on the team. There's also Thor Wignutt, a player who thinks he's an android and talks like Data from Star Trek. One day Ethan begins having strange visions of bushbabies near the field and on the roadside. The creature is actually a werefox named Cutbelly, and meeting him is the beginning of Ethan's adventure.
Ethan's father is an inventer and tinkerer who has come up with a material used in a portable blimp that they fly around the island. It turns out that a certain character wants to use the material to hold a substance so that he can bring about the end of the world. Once Mr. Feld is kidnapped, it's up to Ethan, his friends, and an odd assortment of characters that they meet along the way, to save the day.
It's kind of like "The Lord of the Rings" meets "The Bad News Bears" with a liberal dose of random mythologies thrown in for spice.
For example, we have the "ferishers" who are dimunitive creatures (faeries?) that excell at baseball and scampering between the various world/dimensions known as the summerlands, the winterlands, and the middling (our world) with the gleaming as the great world shut off from the rest. The ferishers call humans "reubens" or "rubes." It's a takeoff on a greenhorn ballplayer.
The end of the world is called "Ragged Rock" which comes from the Norse mythology "Ragnarok."
And, the antagonist is Coyote, popular in Native American lore and akin to Loki, a trickster and master of change. Coyote also invented baseball, and Chabon uses baseball both literally and metaphorically to move the story forward.
I liked the blending of the various mythologies, especially the sequence involving Ethan's team playing against a team made up of the "liars" which are characters from tall tales like John Henry, Paul Bunyan, etc.
Ethan must save his father, and the world as well, while developing his new position of catcher and dealing with an unfinished magical "bat" made from an ash wood branch taken from the great tree of the universe. There's another link in that baseball bats are made from ash and this type of wood allegedly holds magical properties.
Jennifer must develop into a pitcher, and deal with some of her family issues.
I enjoyed the story, but I'm not sure if kids in the 12-15 age group will grasp all of the literary subtleties, but then again maybe so. I enjoyed Chabon's use of the language and thought the story was well-told, although the characters did not always come off as wholy sympathetic. If you like baseball and fantasy, and are looking for an escape, this is a pleasant read.
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78 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Chabon hits a homerun with "Summerland", September 18, 2002
By 
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
I have been a fan of Michael Chabon for a few years now and was very happy to see he was writing a book for a juvenile audience.
Summerland is the tale of a young boy in modern day Washington state who is quite possibly the worst baseball player around. Ethan lives on a small island that features an are of it that never gets rain. Therefore, baseball is very popular with Ethan and his friends.
What nobody knows is that this area, known as Summerland, is also a portal/rift to other dimensions. When extra-dimensional beings start causing problems and kidnap Ethan�s inventor/engineer father to help them destroy the tree that links all the worlds, Ethan and his friends must band together to save the world/worlds.
Chabon introduces the reader to some of the most inventive characters I�ve read ever. When these characters are combined with beautifully described foreign worlds and the great American sport of baseball. The result is pure magic.
Highly Recommended for Kids and Adults
10 stars!
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63 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really for adults, and derivative of Gaiman, September 21, 2002
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
Ok I give it 3 stars, but that was with high expectations. A first time author would have got 4 stars.
This might be a great book for kids (really precocious well-read kids), but as an adult, it wasn't really for me (although I did read and enjoy the Harry Potter books, so I am probably part of Miramax's target market).
If you have read Neil Gaiman's American Gods (or Sandman series) -- you will immediately feel like you are on old ground here. Chabon does exactly the same trick -- He explores various American myths and legends, but couched in a framework of Norse Mythology. Thus, just as in American Gods we have Loki, and Ragnorok (here Ragged Rock) and various American icons, Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Billy the Kid, that kind of thing. And since Chabon is a professed comic geek, I expect he has read Gaiman as well, so I hold him somewhat culpable.
The difference -- this story is told from the perspective of an 11 year old boy -- sort of American Gods meets Harry Potter (or The Talisman).
Fine...it is a quick read, and Chabon is still a great writer-- but the book seemed to me to be written in haste, and his plotting felt messy and haphazard: for example some of the minor characters such as Cutbelly and Thor seem to be entirely mutable, changing their allegiances and personalities throughout the book, until you have no sense of them at all. Transitions were frequently abrupt, as if the author just wanted to get on to his next idea.
Far be it from me to belittle the considerable gifts of Michael Chabon -- Kavalier and Klay was one of the most exceptional books I have read in recent memory, (and he did win the Pulitzer Prize, after all). But part of what made that novel so delightful was that Chabon did not turn down the volume on his vocabulary and erudition, even when traipsing through the backyard of such beloved juvenalia as comic books. And since that book was essentially using comic books as a trope, some of the one dimensional characters and sudden transitions made sense. But in Summerland it doesn't work as well.
I thought Chabon was best in Summerland when he was writing about baseball (which is clearly another passion of his). The first chapter, for example, was terrific. Its too bad he didn't keep the magic and mythology solely to that subject.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good writing - tepid story, November 22, 2002
By 
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
I initally picked up Summerland based on its glowing review in Publisher's Weekly. As both an avid fantasy and children's literature fan, it sounded like something I would enjoy. I was disappointed. I actually would rate this more a two-and-a-half star book, but I can't.
I found this book to be mediocre. The writing itself was beautiful at times. Chabon's knowledge of various folklore and legend was impressive, although I found his mix of them sometimes confusing. The four worlds was an interesting element, particularly given how Chabon used them to explain phenomena in our own. And of course, Chabon's love of baseball shone through brightly. Not being a baseball fan myself, I didn't find those parts particularly compelling, but the passion in them was undeniable.
The story, however, is why I hesitate rating this book higher. Many of the characters were fun and memorable - Ethan, Jennifer T., Cutbelly - but the "bad guys" were rather one-dimensional. I expected much more out of Coyote given the vibrant set of legends surrounding him. Many of his minions, too, were much too black-and-white for my tastes. The progression of the story chiefly annoyed me. The characters often seemed to advance more thanks to a series of fortunate circumstances than through any action of their own (Thor just happens to be a shadowtail, Pettipaw conveniently shows up at the right moment, the stick Ethan finds happens to be magical). It seemed heavy-handed.
All in all, I'd say that this book is probably pure magic to a baseball fan, but in terms of fantasy, it's nothing to write home about.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moments, October 9, 2002
By 
Brett Benner (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
I loved Chabon's "Kavalier & Clay" and was really excited when I read he was writing a book for young adults. I felt really mixed aboutt he result. First off, I think it's unfair to make the immediate comparison to the young wizard at Hogwarts. Those books are just in a different and unstoppable class of their own. That said I think Chabon's fantasy of a boy named Ethan Feld who has to save the world through baseball has moments of charm and imagination. The alternative world that Ethan travels to is inhabited by all kinds of mythical creatures such as werewolves, giants, and even a Sasquatch. But for me I didn't find the story all that compelling. Yes,there's a villan who's more or less the devil, but we barely see him or his nasty deeds so he never is quite as ominous as he should be. Plus there's never a real concern that Ethan and his friends won't complete their various tasks, and at the end of the day everything will be fine.On another note, since the book relys so much on the playing of baseball, if you're not a fan you may find that element a turn off. It's a fine young adult book. But beyond Potter I'd try Phillip Pullman's world for a richer and deeply imagined world.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, October 15, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this book, and I think it may end up being a classic of the genre. I can't wait until my son is old enough that I can read it to him (maybe 7 or 8?). Even though the book is thick, it reads very quickly. The prose is usual Chabon: occasionally laugh out loud funny, and very visually descriptive (but in an economical way).
Regarding the target audience of the book, there is a fair amount of gore, which is why I suggested that kids should be 7 or 8 before being exposed to it. Also, the sentence structure and vocabulary are somewhat more complex than the Harry Potter books (although not as complex as, say, Lord of the Rings). I suggest that kids do what I do when I read Chabon's other books: read with a dictionary by your side, and when you come to a word that you don't know and can't figure out from the context, look it up.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe a Double, but no home run., January 13, 2003
By 
BookBuzz (Chandler, AZ United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
In Summerland, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon uses baseball as a metaphor for existence itself and pins the fate of everything on the outcome of a single, fateful game played by the most unlikely of teams. To carry that imagery over into this review, reading Summerland was like watching the Babe come to bat. You love the Babe. You have all the expectations of seeing him one out of the park, so anything less than a home run-a single or even a double-tends to be a disappointment. I wanted-I expected-to read a great book, but instead, I discovered a good book, which would not, and should not, be a disappointment if it were not for the stature of the author.
Summerland is not great children's literature. It's 500 pages are filled to the brim with characters, gadgets, fantasy worlds, and situations derived from a wealth of sources from Native American and European mythology to American Tall Tales. And that may be why this book is not a home run. Like so many power hitters, Chabon is so determined to hit knock the cover off that he uses his power when maybe a finesse blooper over the shortstop's head would be best.
Chabon crams so much "stuff" into this book that he lacks focus-on the storyline and particularly on character development. Chabon doesn't write consistently from point of view of our baseball-hating hero, Ethan Feld. Therefore, Ethan is not the focus of our attention or our emotional attachment as this child of destiny should be. He becomes just one of many characters in an adventure story. If we become attached to Ethan, we will, by extension care for those close to him and dislike those who want to do him harm. J. K. Rowling accomplishes this with great success by staying focused on Harry Potter's point of view.
But other authors have successfully incorporated multiple points of view in their works. The Lord of the Rings and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy are two fantasy masterworks. Tolkien leaves Frodo and the Ring for many, many pages at a time to tell the stories of multiple sets of characters and Pullman leaves his Lyra to follow happenings in multiple universes. So why doesn't Summerland rise to this level? Summerland's story just doesn't have the weight of "reality" great fantasy needs. We believe in Middle Earth, we believe in Hogwarts, and in Philip Pullman's multiple universes. Chabon doesn't focus on making the world of the book feel real. Rather, his narrative voice contains the wink and nod of a person telling a tall tale, bringing the book to the level of a Fairy Tale rather than a full-fledged fantasy adventure. And, to me, that is difference between a home run and a double.
But there is nothing wrong with a good solid double, and Summerland is an entertaining, if somewhat long, tall tale.
- K. B. SHAW, Publisher -
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A portal into childhood..., June 5, 2003
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
Going into this book with the foreknowledge that it was aimed at adolescents, I was, of course, skeptical. I've been a Chabon fan since the release of Kavalier and Klay, and with his writing style of extravagance I wasn't sure how he would come off as a children's writer. Well, as the stars suggest, I was not disappointed. The masterful prose transformed me from the cynic I am today into the innocent I was of childhood, and made me realize, even if only for a short while, that those really are the best years of your life. Mixing fantasy, baseball, and growing up for the kids, but also underlining with a Chabonesque philosophy on the importance of the little things in life, this novel is one that I will read to my own children, and then hope they read it to their children. Just another step toward Chabon's inevitable title as one of the greatest writers of the past 20 years.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever, Imaginative Story Telling, October 3, 2002
By 
Ricky Hunter (New York City, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
I would have given it five stars if I loved baseball or if this book gave me a love of baseball but I do appreciate the author's, Michael Chabon, intense and passionate love of the game. A book for kids is the perfect follow-up to the wonderful Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay and it shows the author's gift for narrative to be as strong as ever and the story moves swiftly and breathlessly. The imaginary worlds he creates in Summerland come as more of a surprise, as they are both fresh and familiar as the same time. It may lack the sense of wonder of the Harry Potters or the complexities of His Dark Materials but it touches elements of both and brings in a little Americanism (reminiscent of Baum) along with it. He has turned the national sport into the stuff of myths and legends and turned the stuff of myths and legends into daily life. It is both a rollicking adventure story and a sweet meditation on story telling with (its only drawback to this non-fan) a lot of baseball. It is truly a modern American fairy tale.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is in to read, November 27, 2002
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Summerland (Hardcover)
One book I suggest you to read is Summerland. You might think it is a little long, but the book is so good you won't even care. You will like Summerland especially if you like fantasy and baseball. You should not try to read this book if you are not in middle school, because you might not understand the book and will not enjoy it. I am not done reading the book yet, but it is great.
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Summerland
Summerland by Michael Chabon (Audio Cassette - Sept. 2002)
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