If you fell in love with the book (and film) Wonder Boys and found yourself enthralled by The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, then you're in luck. With Summerland, his new novel for readers young and old, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Michael Chabon has pitched another winner.
Chabon is part of a recent trend of adult authors crossing over to children's literature, perhaps as a result of the success of the Harry Potter books. In Chabon's case, as he recently told the Los Angeles Times, the desire had been there for years, ever since, as a boy of 10, he'd dreamed of writing a distinctly American book about adventure and magic.
And that's precisely what Summerland is. Powered by Chabon's ample storytelling skills and rich narrative voice, the novel incorporates baseball, Native American myths, and fantasy into a story that's bound to appeal to young readers and their parents.
The novel takes place on Clam Island, in Washington State, "a small, green, damp corner of the world." But one part of Clam Island is different. For years folks have enjoyed sunshine and baseball in Summerland, a tip of the island where it never rains. Eleven-year-old Ethan Feld, who has moved to the island with his father (a designer of air dirigibles) following his mother's death, is a reluctant baseball player. What's more, he's not very good and often lets down his team, Ruth's Fluff'n'Fold Roosters. "I hate it that they even count errors," Ethan complains to his father. Before long, though, odd things start happening. Ethan meets strange creatures, including a werefox, and ferishers small, American Indian-like creatures who play baseball. And he's recruited by a hundred-year-old scout named Ringfinger Brown to play a major role in an effort to stop the evil Coyote on his path of destruction. Along with his friend, Jennifer T., a stand-out pitcher, and an amazing cast of characters, Ethan must rescue his kidnapped father and conquer evil at the same time, in a suspenseful baseball showdown.
Although the fantasy Chabon's weaves is sophisticated and complex, children who cut their teeth on Hogwarts and Harry Potter will no doubt be up to the challenge.
"Play ball!" Deborah Hopkinson's baseball book for children, Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings, will be published in March.