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Literature / Summerland

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Summerland is a 2002 juvenile/young adult novel by Michael Chabon about a group of young children who seek to save the world by playing baseball. It interweaves elements of a parallel-universe road trip, The Quest and a World Series. It was a popular children's book.

Its less basic premise is this: Summerland is a magical place where the local Little League gathers to play baseball on a perfectly manicured lawn, and the sun is always shining in a flawless blue sky. However, the small beings known as ferishers, who ensure this perfect weather, are threatened by an ancient enemy and need a hero—a baseball star, in fact—to vanquish their foe.

The ferishers recruit Ethan Feld, possibly the worst ballplayer in the history of the league, as their leader. No one is more surprised than Ethan at their choice, but their faith spurs him on. Also, the prophecy of an oracular clam.

Accompanied by his friends Jennifer T. Rideout, a boy named Thor Wignutt who thinks he's an android named TW03, and a motley crew of creatures that includes a Sasquatch and a werefox, Ethan struggles to defeat giants, bat-winged goblins, and one of the toughest ball clubs in the realms of magic to save the Summerlands, and, ultimately, the world.

Not to be confused with the 2004-2005 CW show of the same name, the 2009 tabletop game, the 2012 book by Elin Hildebrand, the 2018 book by Hannu Rajaniemi, or the 2020 film by Jessica Swale, all of which share the same name.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Applied Phlebotinum: Picofibers, the material that Ethan's dad uses to make his airship, and that Coyote plans to use to destroy the Lodgepole.
  • Artificial Human: Thor Wignutt is convinced that he's one. He's actually a Changeling.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: What the general public thinks about Mr. Feld's family airships. As Ethan and his friends find out, they're actually very practical if you need to traverse miles and miles of mountainous terrain, but they seem pointless to the average American family.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The reason Ethan was brought to the Oracular Clam in the first place.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Jennifer T. comes from one.
  • Bilingual Bonus: On the team listings near the end, we learn that Cutbelly the werefox's last name is "Reynard."
  • Bumbling Dad: Mr. Feld is introduced as this.
  • Bungling Inventor: Subverted with Ethan's dad. He's actually a very competent inventor...he just can't find a market for his big project (affordable family airships) because nobody sees the point of it.
  • Changeling Tale: Thor is a changeling.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Splinter comes in use several times throughout, and to an extent the Knott and the pain it causes, too.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Early on, Ethan mentions that his Dad owns a baseball card of the famed ballplayer Rodrigo Buendia. Later in the book, Chiron Brown ends up recruiting Buendia (who turns out to be a cynical burn-out) to help the kids out in their quest.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Baseball, considering how you know, the whole fate of the universe rests on it.
  • Cool Airship: Ethan and his friends carry out their travels in one.
  • Invisible to Normals: The Ferishers are able to get around pretty easily because they're invisible to anyone who doesn't believe in fairies.
  • Ironic Nickname: Chiron Brown is nicknamed "Ringfinger" because his ring finger is missing.
  • Kid Hero: Ethan, Thor and Jennifer T. are these; subverted slightly in that two of them do drive during the course of the story.
  • Kryptonite Factor: All Ferishers can be poisoned by the touch of iron.
  • Muggles: To Ferishers and other creatures from the Summerlands, humans from The Middling (our world) are called "Reubens."
  • The Omniscient: The Oracular Clam. Pity he has to spit out all his prophecies.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Ferishers. They're just miniature-sized humans who dress like Native Americans, play baseball obsessively, and have limited access to magic. And they get around using flying buses.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Technically.
  • Prophecy Twist: The Oracular Clam's prophecy is not about Ethan after all; it's about his father.
  • Punny Name: Ethan's nickname on his baseball team is "the Dog," because he's always hoping for a "walk" when he goes up to bat.
  • The Quest: If you strip the book down to its bare bones, this is essentially the plot.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Chiron "Ringfinger" Brown is 109 years old, but hasn't aged in decades.
  • Reconstruction: Reconstructs adolescent High Fantasy like The Chronicles of Narnia by giving it a fresh setting — in this case, a fantasy-world based on American culture and folklore.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: (taken from the page) Summerland takes place in a world that cheerily mashes together Native American and Norse mythology. This leads to the reveal, utterly brain-breaking if you know your mythology, that Coyote Changer is also Loki and the Devil. Seriously. (And for its next trick, the rules of the Universe are based on those of baseball.)
  • Serious Business: Baseball is the way to save the universe, and its laws are based on those of the universe.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Thinking Up Portals: There is a whole subclass of people, called "Shadowtails," who can do this either to teleport from place to place (called "scampering") or to teleport to different worlds on the Lodgepole (called "leaping"). Thor Wignutt turns out to be one, and he uses his power to take himself and his companions to the Summerlands.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Most of the references to Norse mythology likely went right over the head of the target audience.
  • World Tree: The Lodgepole. Ethan and his friends are trying to fix it (by playing baseball).
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Ethan's dad has developed a new type of zeppelin that the average American family can use for transportation in lieu of a car. This is our first hint that not everything in Ethan's life is quite normal.