R.L. Stine, in a recent interview, says this may be the most underrated novel of all time. Of all time. It's one of Ray Bradbury's few works of realistic fiction, so for this alone it's worth checking out. Settings, characters, and motifs that appear in his fantasy stories appear here, in what is essentially an autobiographical coming of age novel. So it's like getting a window into their origins. Set in a small town in Illinois in 1928, and it's pure childhood summer nostalgia.
I came across the following sentiment, and though I didn't write it, it sums up the way I feel about this book pretty well. So, out of a kind of lazy reverence, I am going to repost it here. Thank you to the rad woman who called in to "Call Me Ishmael" and said this:
“Before I had kids I imagined daughters and I imagined being this kind of magical mom like my mom was to me. But then I had sons and I was really scared. For some reason I felt like I didn’t know how to be magic to boys. And for them I read Dandelion Wine. My copy was used and beat up and smelled like old paperback books do, which is like honestly the best smell in the world. But anyway, Dandelion Wine became the closest thing that I found to a book about how I want to parent. And it’s not like a how-to book or expert book about parenting. But it’s really just about the like simple magic of leaving your kids alone with their minds and their imagination and their neighborhood and their adventures and giving them the space for that. The space to like build a happiness machine like they do in the book. Or bottle up summer like dandelion wine. And space to learn like they’re faster with new shoes. And it’s just the book’s a little bit like Tom Sawyer and a little bit like A Simpler Time. But it’s a whole lot of remembering what is really important and that maybe the magic part is that my boys already are the magic. And I’m just along for the ride. So. That’s Dandelion Wine."