rating: 5 of 5 stars
Apparently I was one of the last three people on Earth who hadn't already fallen in love with Michael Chabon. I'd heard him touted on various blogs, and a friend had bought me The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Wonder Boys is one of my favorite movies, but I'd never put all of those things together. It wasn't until I was subbing recently that I saw Summerland and picked it up. Having not read any of Chabon's other novels, I didn't have any expectations for this book, but I thought it was wonderful.
Summerland is an amazing fantasy, along the lines of The Lord of the Rings. Summerland is the story of a young boy, Ethan Feld, and his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, as they venture across different lands on a quest to prevent Coyote from destroying the entire world. Along the way, they pick up an unlikely band of friends, from a mini giant to a sasquatch. With their new friends they cross the four branches of the great tree: The Middling (our world now), Summerland (where fairies and other creatures live in eternal summer), Winterland (lots of strange creatures, but always winter) and The Gleaming (no one knows what lies here). They meet a variety of creatures from Indian legends and American Tall Tales. They play a number of games of baseball along the way (it's the only sport common to all of the lands) to earn their freedom to continue on their quest.
I really loved this book. I'm not a huge fantasy reader, but I loved Chabon's treatment of the classic quest plot. I really liked that it had such strong American roots, and almost would have wanted just a little bit more, such as when he describes American Tall Tales by their appearance. I would have preferred names, mostly because I wasn't familiar with all of the tales he spoke of. I liked the characters, and loved the relationship between all of them. I also like how each member of their party had a different reason for going on this quest. It felt quite authentic. Overall, this is a great book for young and old alike. It's an easy ready, though long, and is easy to connect to. I would love to see more fantasies tied to truly American elements, celebrating the heritage we have.
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