Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, Ray Bradbury's formal education ended with his graduation from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. For several years after graduating high school he earned money by selling newspapers on street corners in Los Angeles. Bradbury began writing at a young age, and in 1941 he sold his first science fiction short story. Bradbury became well known writing short stories that were published in science fiction magazines, and he won several awards for his science fiction short story writing. True fame for Bradbury, however, came with the publication in 1950 of The Martian Chronicles. His most widely read book is Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. Bradbury had published hundreds of books and stories and in addition has written for television, radio, theater, and film. He has won numerous awards for his fiction, and a crater on the moon was named after Dandelion Wine.
Dandelion Wine takes place in Green Town, Illinois. Green Town is the fictional name that Ray Bradbury gives to his hometown of Waukegan. As Bradbury explains in "Just this side of Byzantium," an essay written in the summer of 1974 and used as an introduction to the book, Dandelion Wine is a recreation of a boy's childhood, based upon an intertwining of Bradbury's real experiences and his brilliant imagination. From age twenty-four to thirty-six, Bradbury says he wrote almost daily about his childhood, and one year later, in 1957, he published Dandelion Wine. The book is the story of a twelve- year-old boy growing up and learning what life is about over the course of a summer. Although Bradbury writes about his past, the book is hardly an autobiography. It is more like a fantastical retelling of many events from his childhood all fused into one summer in the life of a boy named Douglas Spaulding. Bradbury mentions that the character John Huff, although a real friend of his, lived in Arizona. It was easy to move his childhood friend from Arizona to Green Town because he was a necessary part of the story.
Although Bradbury is primarily known as a science fiction writer, Dandelion Wine is not a science fiction book. However, it does contain elements of the dark side of human nature and the fantastical magic that permeates the book makes it different from other novels. In his introduction, Bradbury comments that a reviewer once took him to task for not describing Waukegan (Green Town) as an ugly and sometimes depressing town. Bradbury's response is that he was writing from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy. To children, everything can be magical, and that is the sentiment that Bradbury attempts to bring across in his novel. Furthermore, Bradbury insists that his novel is real and true because he says it is. Even if it is not historically accurate, it is the portrayal of a child's summer. Bradbury believes that because that portrayal is his way of writing his own childhood and is steeped in the poignant memories of his past, it is therefore real.