t. 93, Various NZ Authors, Summer Days

Summer Days:
Stories and Poems Celebrating the Kiwi Summer 
by Various NZ Authors.

Auckland: Picture Puffin Imprint,
Penguin Random House (2017).
RRP: $45. Hb, full colour, 222pp.
ISBN: 9780143771593.

Reviewed by Anna Smith.

Summer Days: Stories and Poems Celebrating the Kiwi Summer[1]  is an attractive and varied collection from a range of different authors and illustrators. Each page holds at least one gorgeous, lively image; each page teems with activity, which is perfect for a summer spent (mostly) in the sun. The stories and poems come from such established creatives as Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Gavin Bishop, Patricia Grace, Jenny Cooper, Peter Bland, Fiona Farrell, James Baxter, Pamela Allen, Gwenda Turner and Brian Turner and includes Dot Meharry, Melany Drewery, Vasanti Unka, among others.

Not a single story or respectfully crafted poem is a dud: each item adds its unique contribution to the storehouse. Brian Turner’s ‘Bumbles’ sounds dizzyingly onomatopoeic, the head-spinning completed by Jenny Cooper’s quirky bees; ‘Whisper to Me’ by Patricia Grace, also illustrated by Cooper who has excelled herself in this book, is a calming lullaby written in Māori and English. And in Gavin Bishop’s version of ‘Maui and the Sun’ we have a distinctive rendition of the myth that holds its own against Gossage’s.  My favourite, written in the style of a round and drawn and coloured by Sandra Morris turned out to be ‘Pōhutukawa’, 24 hypnotic pages of red, green and browns accompanied by an unforgettable soundscape. Joy Cowley’s humourous ‘Cowshed Christmas’ illustrated by Gavin Bishop using strong unfussy lines and bright colours is up there too.

What’s more, the end-papers are studded with cone ice-creams, and the blurb summons up ‘Pohutukawa blossom, melting ice cream, sandy jandals, singing cicadas and the swish swash swoosh of the sea . . .’ – all emblematic of Kiwi summers. Playful typography throughout adds to the memorability.

Worth the price. Well done, Penguin Random House.

[1] Including Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Gavin Bishop, Pamela Allen, Gwenda Turner, Fiona Farrell, Elena de Roo, Melanie Drewery, Sandra Morris, Sue Wootton, Brian Turner, Jenny Cooper, Vasanti Unka and David Elliot.

Anna Smith has recently retired from teaching English literature at the University of Canterbury Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha. She has written on New Zealand artists and writers as well as reviews, short stories and a work of fiction.