Summerland by Michael Chabon

Ethan Feld hates baseball. He isn't any good, and he wants to quit. He tries to explain to his father...but his dad and his best friend, Jennifer T., both say he can't quit right before a game. So he goes, and Ruth's Fluff and Fold's Roosters lose another one...

On the way to the game, he could have sworn he saw a bush baby. Of course, the chances of a bush baby being in Clam Island, Washington are nearly impossible. It turns out, what he saw was a werefox named Cutbelly. Ethan has been recruited by Chiron "Ringfinger" Brown to be a hero. He learns that there are, in fact, four worlds. Our world (the Middling), the Summerlands, the Winterlands, and the Gleaming...which is lost. Cutbelly takes him to the Summerlands (well, the other Summerlands) to meet the ferishers of the Boar Tooth Mob (they don't like to be called fairies) because Coyote has decided to bring about the end of the world, or Ragged Rock (aka Ragnarok), and they need Ethan's help.

Ethan's just a kid, what can he do? He isn't even good at baseball! "Ringfinger" suggests he give up the outfield, and try catching...and suggests that Jennifer T. try pitching. Somewhat overwhelmed by this new revelation, the two kids decide to give it a try, with surprising success. While they prepare to enter the Summerlands, and take on Coyote, tragedy strikes. The Boar Tooth Mob are attacked by Coyote, leaving only their leader Cinquefoil behind, and Cutbelly and Ethan's dad are kidnapped. Not knowing what else to do, Ethan and Jennifer T. decide to bring their friend Thor along, to act as a Shadowtail that can help them cross between worlds. Using Cinquefoil's 'grammar' (ferisher for magic), they fix up Mr. Feld's old stationwagon and the balloon from his Zeppelina (his prototype for "the affordable family airship") into a flying contraption to take them on their long journey.

They embark, picking up friends and having adventures along the way. After a few stops, it becomes apparent that they will have to play baseball to get to the Winterlands to stop Coyote. Their team is a bit ragtag, including Ethan, Jennifer T., Thor, Cinquefoil, Taffy (a sasquatch), Grimalkin John (a minature giant), Pettipaw (a wererat), and Spider Rose (a ferisher from the Dandelion Hill Mob). They even recruit a real MLB player, Rodrigo Buendia, to be their ninth man.

Meanwhile, in the Winterlands, Coyote has tricked Mr. Feld into adapting his Zeppelina design to use as a way to poison the Lodgepole, the Great Tree of the Worlds. Mr. Feld saves Cutbelly from certain death, but starts to lose himself as he works to help Coyote. Can Ethan find him in time, and stop Coyote from destroying the worlds?

This story, written by Pulizer-prize winning author Michael Chabon, weaves together multiple mythologies and creates a world akin to Harry Potter's by building something new from old stories. The book is a daunting 500 pages, but I rarely got bored, and I don't even like baseball. Highly recommended for baseball/fantasy fans of all ages. I also recommend the audio version, read by the author.

"Some things that are invisible and untouchable can nevertheless be seen and felt." (Chabon, 2002).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (YA/Adult crossover)
Nation by Terry Prachett
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Chabon, Michael. (2002). Summerland. New York, NY: Hyperion Books.
Chabon, Michael. (2002). Summerland [audiobook]. Minneapolis, MN: HighBridge Co.

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