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Summerland: A Novel Paperback – February 16, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 165 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Summerland, his first novel for young readers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon attempts an American Narnia. Inspired by Lewis and Tolkien, he's created his own magical landscape on which to paint a sweeping fantasy quest, but mixes the same ingredients--folklore and new inventions--in a distinctively American way.

The plot is simple and pure, but takes a long time to tell. The setting is Clam Island, Washington, specifically the area on the western tip of the island known as the Summerlands, which enjoys zero rainfall and yearlong fine weather. Ethan Feld, a self-described really bad ball player, is recruited by a 100-year-old scout called Mr. Chiron "Ringfinger" Brown. Ethan is needed to help the ferishers, essentially fairies, to save their world from eradication. On the great infinite tree of worlds, Summerland is on the boundary between two such worlds, and a particularly destructive fairy called Coyote and his band of warriors are nearby and threatening to destroy everything.

Heroes are desperately needed to counter this threat, and their journey involves a lot of baseball, but also encounters with giants, bat-winged goblins, sea monsters, and assorted cunning magic. The novel features an ensemble cast of equal parts that shine and fade in turn, and yet the undoubtedly fine writing fails to mask the enormity and complexities of the world in which they travel, and the bad guys getting their comeuppance always seems so far away. Readers need to savor every word in Summerland to extract the best flavors from it. (Ages 10 and older.) --John McLay, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In his debut novel for young readers, Pulitzer Prize winner Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) hits a high-flying home run, creating a vivid fantasy where baseball is king. Following the death of his mother, 11-year-old Ethan Feld and his father, a designer of lighter-than-air-dirigibles move to Clam Island, Wash. The island is known for its almost constant rain, save for an area on its westernmost tip called Summerland by the locals which "knew a June, July and August that were perfectly dry and sunshiny." In Summerland, Ethan struggles to play baseball for the Ruth's Fluff and Fold Roosters, with dismal results. But here, too, a mystical baseball scout recruits Ethan and escorts him through a gateway to a series of interconnected worlds that are home to magical creatures called ferishers and an evil, shape-changing overlord called Coyote. Ethan and two of his fellow teammates soon accept a mission to save these other worlds (plus the one they live in) from ultimate destruction at Coyote's hand. When his father's well-being is also threatened, Ethan's quest becomes all the more urgent. To succeed, Ethan and his friends must find a way to beat giants, ferishers and others in a series of games where striking out truly has apocalyptic implications. Chabon unspools an elaborate yarn in a style that frequently crackles with color and surprise. He occasionally addresses readers directly, imbuing his tale with the aura of something that has been passed down through the ages. Impressively, the author takes a contemporary smalltown setting and weaves in baseball history, folklore and environmental themes, to both challenge and entertain readers. Images of the icy Winterlands and beasts like the werefox and Taffy the motherly Sasquatch recall C.S. Lewis's Narnia and some of Philip Pullman's creations in His Dark Materials. Devotees of the genre and of America's pastime will find much to cheer here. All ages.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition (February 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786816155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786816156
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,093,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jack Fitzgerald VINE VOICE on October 22, 2003
Format: 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.
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Format: 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).
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Format: 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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Format: 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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