Dandelion Wine (Bradbury)

Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury, 1957
Random House
239 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780553277531

The summer of '28 was a vintage season for a growing boy. A summer of green apple trees, mowed lawns, and new sneakers. Of half-burnt firecrackers, of gathering dandelions, of Grandma's belly-busting dinner.

It was a summer of sorrows and marvels and gold-fuzzed bees. A magical, timeless summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding—remembered forever by the incomparable Ray Bradbury. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Aka—Leonard Douglas, William Elliott, Douglas Spaulding, Leonard Spaulding
Birth—August 22, 1920
Where—Waukegan, Illinois USA
Death—June 5, 2012
Where—Los Angeles, California
Education—schools in Waukega and Los Angeles
Awards—(see below)

Ray Bradbury was one of those rare individuals whose writing changed the way people think. His more than 500 published works—short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, and verse—exemplify the American imagination at its most creative.

Once read, his words are never forgotten. His best-known and most beloved books—The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes—are masterworks that readers carry with them over a lifetime. His timeless, constant appeal to audiences young and old has proven him to be one of the truly classic authors of the 20th Century—and the 21st.

Ray Bradbury's work has been included in several Best American Short Story collections. He won countless awards and honors for his work (see below).

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along.

1947 & 1948 - O. Henry Memorial Awards
1954 - Benjamin Franklin Award
1977 - World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award
1980 - World Science Fiction Convention Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy
1988 - National Book Foundation Medal
1989 - Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master
1989 - Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award
1999 - Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame induction
2000 - National Book Foundation Medal
2002 - Hollywood Walk of Fame star
2004 - National Medal of Arts
2007 - Sir Arthur Clarke Special Award
2007 - French Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres Medal

From a 2003 Barnes and Noble interview:

• I spent three years standing on a street corner, selling newspapers, making ten dollars a week. I did that job every day for three hours and the rest of the time I wrote because I was in love with writing. The answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love.

• I have been inspired by libraries and the magic they contain and the people that they represent.

• I hate all politics. I don't like either political party. One should not belong to them—one should be an individual, standing in the middle. Anyone that belongs to a party stops thinking.

When asked what books most influenced his life or career as a writer—this is what he said:

The John Carter, Warlord of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which entered my life when I was ten and caused me to go out on the lawns of summer, put up my hands, and ask for Mars to take me home. Within a short time I began to write and have continued that process ever since, all because of Mr. Burroughs.

Book Reviews
[A] rich, lyrical portrait of a small town.... The summer is seen through the 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding...[who] awakes to the possibilities of life and to the inevitability of death—and lives through it with his innocence, if not all his illusions, intact. It is a summer of "rites and ceremonies," of "discoveries and revelations." ... Sound sentimental? Of course it is—but joyously so, and dappled with the skepticism of children.... "The sun didn't rise," writes the author. "It overflowed." And so does this warm embracing play. (Based on the 1975 stage play.)
Mel Gussow - New York Times (2/8/1975)

Bradbury's 1957 semi-autobiographical novel, after which a crater on the moon is named, captures the very heart and soul of childhood, from terror of the dark to the delight of running in new sneakers. —Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ. Lib., Russellville
Library Journal

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

1. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to Douglas? To you, personally? Do you remember when you first became aware, or conscious, that you were alive?

2. Dandelion Wine is peopled with characters of various pages, from boyhood through old age. How does life, and all of its meanings and imperatives, differ from age to age in the book? How about in your own experiences: how has your understanding of life changed from the time you were a young child up to whatever age you are now?

3. If one feels life intensely, does one also fear death intensely as Douglas does? How about you: if you fall in love with life, is it possible to come an acceptance of your own death?  How does Colonel Freeleigh approach his death? Great-grandma Spaulding tells Douglas that "no person ever died that had a family." What does she mean?

4. By the book's end, how does Douglas gain acceptance of both life and death? What lessons does he learn? What lessons might you have taken away from this book?

5. Talk about the title of Bradbury's book. What is the significance of dandelion wine...and of dandelions themselves? Consider that the dandelion is a lowly weed, that it dies but returns to life each spring, and that it disperses its seeds over wide distances.

6. What role does magic play in this work? What about in real life: Do you believe that the ordinary, mundane part of life holds a kind of magic? What comprises "magic" in life for Douglas, the people of Greenville...and for you?

7. Talk about the machines in the story. How do they function symbolically? Consider the Green Machine, the Happiness Machine, the trolley, and the lawn mower. Do machines enhance life by adding to its magic? Or do machines detract from life?

8. Why is memory so prominent in this work? Can the past exist without access to memory?

9. The ravine is an important setting in the book. What does it mean to the boys? What does it mean to the community? Think about the ravine as wonder, wildness, freedom, the unknown, danger...or all of those things. Was there such a place when you were growing up?

10. What parts of the book do you find humorous? Which parts do you find akin to your own childhood?

11. Does Dandelion Wine portray an idealized childhood? Or a realistic one?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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