Dandelion Wine, first published in the United States in 1957, is the story of twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding as he approaches manhood in the mythical city of Green Town, Illinois. As Douglas moves from a childlike state of ignorance toward the full knowledge of his own existence, he learns to value family, friends, and time. Moreover, as Douglas becomes increasingly aware that all life ends in death, he also must confront his own mortality and that fact that he, too, will someday die. This confrontation erupts in a mysterious summer illness that almost costs Douglas his life; his awakening from the fever coma signifies Douglas’s mature acceptance and valuing of human life.
Dandelion Wine is different from most of the canon of Bradbury’s work. Although he rejects the label of science fiction writer, it is true that most of his work could be classified as fantasy or science fiction. Dandelion Wine, on the other hand, grows out of Bradbury’s own childhood in Waukegan, Illinois, in the golden years before the Great Depression. Bradbury himself frequently comments on the autobiographical qualities of the novel. He writes in his 1975 introduction to the book, “Dandelion Wine is nothing if it is not the boy-hid-in-the-man playing in the fields of the Lord on the green grass of other Augusts in the midst of starting to grow up, grow old, and sense darkness waiting under the trees to seed the blood.” This, then, is a glimpse into the childhood and formative years of one of America’s major writers, and a coming-of-age-story for readers of all ages.