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I know, I know. How can I say the much-loved Michael Chabon put out a 3.25 story... for kids at that?
Hear me out...
First, yes, if you listen to the Introduction, the man is coming from an emotional and heartfelt place--totally touching (which by the way, you might listen to without the kids unless you want to explain to an 8-yr old what pregnancy termination entails).
Second, his narration of his own work is flawless and enjoyable; it's the best part of the book. When you, and your kids, listen to it, you have the feeling that he is there in the room reading to you, giving it his all, just as though he were reading to his own children (and when you listen to it, you start wishing that you were his own kids because obviously the guy puts a lot of love into performance). Each character is wonderfully voiced, emotion and drama conveyed brilliantly.
But that's it. The Publisher's Summary says the book is for all ages, but I have a feeling parents will be nodding off during this one, despite Chabon's fantastic performance. This is for 10 and much, much younger. The main character is 11, but eleven-year olds will see things coming a mile away, plus they demand excitement, suspense, big pay-offs.
As it is, "Summerland" has sweet, quirky characters who go from one minor adventure to another minor adventure, nothing building to anything, and each (short) adventure is solved oh so quickly and oh so successfully. Period.
There is no failure to be found. Items that are needed magically appear; bad guys are tripped up right when they need to be, nothing, not a thing--from information that is conveniently and lengthily conveyed in a speech, to food on a journey that should be hard to find but isn't (actually, a character turns up who just so happens to cook impossibly well)--is difficult. The characters don't struggle, with evil, with each other, they don't even struggle with themselves. Okay, so Ethan isn't much of a batter, always strikes out--even that isn't much of anything and you ALWAYS know how that's going to turn out from one at-bat to the next.
I wish I could say that I loved this, and I did love some of the writing (a giant clearing his throat sounds "like bricks tumbling in a dryer," and a queen is "like a cold, tiny moon") but similes aside, there's not much here to engage anyone older than 7 or 8.
Your younger kids might like this, if they like stories that have no suspense, no breathless cliffhanger chapter endings, and ultra-easy character interactions without spice, but you and your older kids might be dozing.
Most every dilemma is solved by baseball, whether by a game thrown out as a challenge, or by a book the group carries that just happens to have all the answers in it... Sweet. But after a while, you realize that nobody, not even Michael Chabon can bat a thousand all the time.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Filled the majority of 2000+ mile road trip with a 9 y/o baseball fan boy and his 7 y/o doesn't really care what home plate is sister. A modern Odyssey with rarely a dull moment.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful