Most people know of Michael Chabon for his adult novels, but he also wrote a YA novel, a rollicking romp called Summerland. Summerland is strange and funny and crazy; it's the kind of book where you just know that the author was having a good time writing it, smiling as the words rolled out onto the page (though I always keep that old mantra in mind when I say things like this: easy reading comes from difficult writing).
Summerland's protagonist is Ethan Feld, a boy who hates baseball almost as much as his father loves it. Ethan lives on Clam Island, Washington, he has a best friend named Jennifer T, and he's the worst player on his baseball team. One morning, Ethan awakes from a freakish baseball nightmare to find a werefox named Cutbelly sitting on his chest. Cutbelly's opening line captures the mood of Summerland: "My name is Cutbelly. I am a werefox. I am seven hundred and sixty-five years old. I have been sent to offer you everlasting fame and a fantastic destiny" (37). Cutbelly has arrived to recruit Ethan for a mythical baseball team that can save the world, but at first it certainly seems like Cutbelly has got the wrong man. It takes a raucous adventure to convince Ethan that he just might have a baseball star inside himself after all.
Summerland is a book for baseball fans and fantasy fans, a book about home runs and Sasquatches and ferishers and giants. Imagine a fantastical baseball field populated by mythical creatures. Now stretch that image over a whole world and you've got a sense of the place that is Chabon's novel. It's a nice place to play for a while.
[Chabon, Michael. Summerland. New York: Miramax Books, 2002.]