A Dream of Summer, because we are all dreaming of summer…
Here we are in the heady rush of summer, where busy summer plans are making themselves felt regardless of the on-again, off-again weather. In the midst of all the hurry, I find myself longing for quiet dreaming reads – the ones that speak of nostalgia for simpler ways of life, the kinds of adventures that don’t require a car and the sort of long hot summer days that we just haven’t seen here in a while. These books remind me to take a breath, take a walk, eat ice cream on the sidewalk and lie around on the grass. They remind me to slow down and enjoy every late twilight and sunny afternoon that comes my way.
P.S. While many of these books feature young protagonists, they are entirely suitable for adults as well, especially if you are looking for sophisticated language and evocative settings.
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Meet Douglas Spaulding, 12 years old in 1928 and able to turn on lights with the power of his imagination. His story is the wonderful, lyrical one of a boy in summer, with all the ordinary magic of small towns and baseball and the sharp, sudden awareness of growing up. Sure, Ray Bradbury is known as a father of science fiction and as a man with radical, challenging ideas, but you can meet him here as a writer who paints the summer into memory with extraordinarily deft imagery and singing language.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce, plucky 11-year-old adventurer and amateur chemist (read: poisoner) bicycles around her small British town and investigates every mystery. She lives in a dilapidated Georgian manor house with two unfeeling elder sisters and a philatelic-obsessed father. As it happens, this summer, there’s a murder. Flavia – hilarious, determined and overly precocious – will get to the bottom of it. In the mean time we’ll sidle along with her and enjoy the eccentric rural life of British village in the 1950s.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
What better book to convince you of the glory of messing about in boats? These animals shun the wide world and all its repugnant responsibilities, and spend their time instead on the pleasures of the moment and the seduction of the river. We may lack somewhat in immediate rivers, but there is certainly no dearth of boats, so take a copy along when you rent a canoe from the UW and spend some time relaxing.
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat
I will always have a soft spot for Mutt, a dog who out-dogs every Marley, Shiloh, Old Yeller or Enzo. Perhaps his remarkable charm comes from his general refusal to believe that he is a dog, or perhaps from the well-told madcap escapades of the boy he pals around with. Farley Mowat is known for unflinching portrayals of Canada’s last wild spaces and traditional populations, but his gift for storytelling goes far deeper than that. Picture Mutt and Farley, growing up together on the Saskatchewan prairies with ever more laugh-out-loud adventures, and you won’t want to pass this tale by.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
And finally, a book from the iconic South, where summer is a personality in its own right and night gardening is the only sensible option. Set in a small town called Bascom, North Carolina, this is the story of the Waverly sisters and their magic apple tree. It’s a story about coming home, family and really good cooking. There’s a little backyard romance, and an interesting child. This book is like a firefly, a bright flare of ordinary enchantment on a hot summer’s night.