Poetry Box review: Dick Frizzell’s The Sun Is a Star plus a popUP challenge

Poetry Box November challenge – using poetry forms

The Sun Is a Star, Dick Frizzell, Massey University Press, 2021

Dick Frizzell’s The Sun Is a Star is a dazzling book, which is just what you want in a book that explores the sun. Think dazzle, think gleam, think word beams. Dick got the idea for the book when his granddaughter Coco ran inside to ask him if he knew the sun was a star. She is grownup now, so he has germinated the idea for a long time. Rather than do all the artwork and writing himself, he drew in a crowd of helpers from friends and family. Samantha Lord has several degrees, including one in Science Communication, has worked as an astronomy guide at lake Tekapo, and is now back home working at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in England. She helped Dick discover new star facts and possibilities, and to communicate tricky information.

Dick also uses images by a range of artists, not just himself, and that adds further dazzle and gleam to the book. Just as there is no one way to write a poem that connects with the sun, there is no one way to make an image that has sun connections. You will move from John Pule’s black ink drawing to Karl Maughan’s squidgy thick orange paint on canvas to Otis Frizzell’s digital illustration. Loads of different media, loads of different approaches, loads of different suns. It is very easy to dawdle through the book and sun-dream on each page as you sink into the images.

More than anything The Sun Is a Star is a book of fascinations. I pondered the questions. How hot is the sun? How big is the sun? Dick isn’t just delivering dry facts. He writes like he is sitting in a big hammock with you talking sun things, and a bit like a poet who loves playing with words. Oh and he is having such fun as he uses his imagination to explain things. When he tells you how big the sun is, he gets us to imagine flying round the sun in a plane (as long as we don’t get burnt to cinders). It would take eight months, but it takes two-and-half days to fly around Earth in a plane. He talks about why the sun never sets, how moonlight is sunlight, and how being on Earth on a tilt helps. He also provides comfort when he says the sun can burn away for billions more years without anyone having to add logs to the fire.

Dick sometimes uses words Margaret Mahy would be proud of (hornswoggled, wizard wheeze). He also uses technical words that might send your head spinning, but there is a very useful glossary at the back of the book. He talks about how some ideas make his head spin or hurt (such as infinity, or what happened before the Big Bang, or Space and Time) and I know the feeling. Thinking about space and time can be an extremely head-spinning thing to do. Nobody knows all the answers yet. There are things scientists still can’t explain. But this book is a brilliant guide (hard to get away from sun words!) to things researchers do know about the sun.

At the start of the book, Dick confesses he is not a fan of diagrams and that he won’t be using any. Instead, as I said earlier, he uses his imagination and finds analogies/little stories to show what he means. In order to understand how hard it is to understand the relationship between space and time, he has this to say: ‘What if I were to shrink you down like Ant Man until you were in the weave of the carpet? You would then be unaware of the flatness. You would also be aware that your presence has disturbed its density in all directions.’

Massey University Press has produced a beautiful, eye-catching, hard-cover book, that is both child and adult friendly. This is the kind of book you buy for yourself, and then buy a second copy to give to a friend, young or old. The art is magnificent, the writing is genius. To celebrate I am posting a popUP challenge, so I can give a copy of the book to one young reader (Y1 – Y8).

popUP SUN challenge: poems and artworks

Write a poem inspired by what fascinates you about sun.

What fascinating fact can you put in your poem? Your poem might spin around the fact.

Hunt for fascinating sun words.

Listen to your poem before you send it and wait at least one day before you do!

OR! Create an artwork of the sun. What fascinates you about the sun? Use paint or ink or mixed media. (Don’t put your surname on image please)

Send to: paulajoygreen@xtra.co.nz
Deadline: 19th November
Please include: your name, year, age, name of school
Put SUN poem or artwork in subject line so I don’t miss it.

I will read and look at everything after the deadline, email you, and post some favourite things on 23rd November. I will have at least one book to give away.

Dick Frizzell MNZM is one of New Zealand’s best known and most versatile painters. He studied at the Ilam School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury from 1960 to 1963 and then had a long career in advertising. Alongside his career as a painter, Frizzell is also the highly sought-after designer of a range of products from toys to wine. He is the author of Dick Frizzell: The Painter (Random House NZ, 2009) and It’s All About the Image (Random House NZ, 2011). Dick exhibits regularly and often works in collaborations with writers and other artists. He lives in Auckland with this wife, Jude.

Massey University Press page (where you can look inside the book)

1 thought on “Poetry Box review: Dick Frizzell’s The Sun Is a Star plus a popUP challenge

  1. Pingback: Poetry Shelf celebrates Dick Frizzell’s A Sun Is a Star with Ava’s poem | Poetry Box

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