“It was June and long past time for buying the special shoes that were quiet as summer rain falling on the walks. June and the earth full of raw power and everything everywhere in motion. The grass was still pouring in from the country, surrounding the sides, stranding the houses. Any moment the town would capsize, go down and leave not a stir in the clover and weeds. And here Douglas stood, trapped on dead cement and red-brick streets, hardly able to move.”
The opening piece in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine finds Doug Spaulding at the start of his twelfth summer, yearning for a pair of running shoes that will let him be a part of the glorious season. Like the dandelion wine bottled and stored in his grandparents’ cellar, the memories of that long-ago summer are preserved to be savored by his readers.
Ray Douglas Bradbury was one of those people who could remember his childhood in vivid detail. As with many of the very best authors who write for young people, he could remember not only what happened but also how it felt when it happened. This book portrays his 1920s childhood in Waukegan, Illinois, (renamed Green Town) as a coming-of-age tale. It is enriched with the imagination of his young self yet augmented with the wisdom of his later years. In the course of a single summer, Doug and his friends discover a time machine and a happiness machine. A legendary serial killer is vividly unmasked, and star-crossed lovers meet all too briefly.
Dandelion Wine is a tonic for any age. When I read it as a teen, I knew the truths revealed on love and loss were things to be savored. Decades later, it is a joy to experience it again, time having only made it a better vintage.