What is this book about? MAGIC! Though, as you're reading through it, you would be hard-pressed to actually find any particular instances of it, but it's about magic all the same. Childhood magic, deep magic, real magic. The magic of dawn, of memories, of new sneakers, arcades, riding machines, dandelion wine, porch swings, simple rituals, summertime, and of dusk.
This book is for those who remember the magic of childhood and for those who need reminding. I suppose a child of 12 or 13 would enjoy the book, but more than being a children's book, I think it is a book about childhood and growing up. It's about how a 12-year-old sees the world, how he deals with it, how he begins to realize his mortality but also the fact that he is really alive, that his body is amazing and the world is an amazing and, sometimes, horrifying place to live.
I've read Dandelion Wine three times now, and each time I love it just as much or more than the last. There is no grand adventure (besides the day to day adventure all of us live), no spectacular climax, but as I was reading it this time with the mindset of writing a book review, I quite often wanted to transcribe whole chapters to share; alas, that would break copyright laws, so I couldn't do it.
Dandelion Wine takes place in Green Town, Illinois (a made up place based on a town from Bradbury's childhood). It's a smallish town that's fairly quiet, but it's filled with characters who have great stories. The primary character is Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old who, during the summertime, basically lives outdoors. The book is somewhat about his adventures, but also about his neighbors' adventures and how Douglas and his brother, Tom, make sense of them all.
Overall, the book is like a draught of sunshine just like, in the book, a draught or even a sip of Dandelion Wine taken in wintertime is like a piece of summertime. It's to be read in summertime as a reminder to notice the little things, and to be read in the wintertime time to remember the sun and warmth of summer. Though the book is essentially light (in emotional tone and brightness) the book also deals with loss, death, growing old, doomed romance, and sadness; but through each of these things a lesson is learned, Douglas and Tom keep on living and growing, and many of the characters become at peace with their experiences.
Like I said before, most of the things I wish to share have to be shared by the chapter, without context, it wouldn't mean as much. But I do want to share what Douglas' grandpa prescribes when Douglas is feeling down, “ Now upstairs, run three times around the block, do five somersets, six pushups, climb two trees, and you'll be concertmaster instead of chief mourner. Get!” Later on in the book Tom shares his ideas of some similar medicine, “A good night's sleep, or a ten-minute bawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream, or all three together, is good medicine, Doug. You listen to Tom Spaulding, M.D.” Now I know people and kids sometimes have serious problems that they need treatment or medication for, but I also believe that little boys (and some big ones) sometimes just need a little more of what was mentioned, individually or, even better, all together.
So if you're looking for an easy read, something filled with simple wisdom and lessons learned, I encourage you to read this gem.
I would rate it PG or maybe even PG13 because, like I said before, it deals with death and loss. There is a woman murdered and some other characters also die (though they're of natural causes). When you can, I think it's best when you parents read books first or at the same time as your kids, if you can't do that, at least ask them to talk about what they're reading.
Oh, another note. For those of you who have read or tried to read some of Bradbury's short stories and did not like them because of their dark tone and violence, this is not anything like those. If you are of a similar personality to me, within the first couple lines you will be smiling. If you read this book and fall in love with Bradbury's writing, Fahrenheit 451 is a little similar, in the fact that some of the characters notice and love small wonders, but it is somewhat dark. Though I have not read it yet, I think The Halloween Tree has a similar tone to Dandelion Wine, though it has “magic” other than the kind I talked of. Just know that his short stories, particularly The Illustrated Man, start out violent and depressing and, I feel, become more so the further you go in the book.