The Growing Summer was first published in 1966. The US
edition (1967) was entitled The Magic Summer. A UK edition
is still available, but is out of print in the US.
Story | Background
| Awards | Thoughts | Editions
and Availability | Other Media
Alex, Penny, Robin and Naomi Gareth live in London. When their
father is taken ill overseas, Mother flies out to be with him.
She arranges for the children to be looked after by their Great-Aunt
Dymphna, who also looked after Father when he was a child.
Great-Aunt Dymphna has a large house in Ireland, and tells the
children they can stay in the west wing and look after themselves.
The children find it very difficult at first, being quite inexperienced
at cooking, shopping and washing. The situation is made worse
when they discover a runaway boy hiding in their part of the house.
After the Second World War, Noel started making annual visits
to an Irish friend, Rachel Leigh-White, who lived in Bantry Bay.
Angela Bull suggests that
the inspiration for The Growing Summer came when Noel
listened to Pete Seegar's popular song "Little Boxes"
(a protest against urban life):
The contrast between the scattered white cottages
of Bantry Bay, and the crowded homes of London and its suburbs,
struck her forcibly ... Suppose, she thought, some children
were taken away from their monochrome suburban existence, and
exposed to the glorious anarchy of Ireland. What would happen
to them? (1984:233)
The television serial of The Growing
Summer won a silver medal at the 1969 Venice Film Festival.
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
The Growing Summer is thematically similar to The
Circus is Coming. In both books, the children are placed
in a unfamiliar environment, and must learn to cope with it. Because
the Gareth children are so completely "normal" (not
having suffered from Peter and Santa's unusual upbringing) the
reader is likely to sympathise with them at first, and feel that
Great-Aunt Dymphna is being rather unreasonable. In fact, the
children - Alex and Penny in particular - do seem to cope as well
as might be expected. However, like Peter and Santa, they need
to learn that they have disrupted their Great-Aunt's life, and
she is, in fact, being generous in agreeing to look after them.
In The Circus is Coming,
Peter is surprised when Ben points out that Gus "Must 'a'
done away with most of 'is comfort havin' you" (The
Circus is Coming, 1938:199). He and Santa had never thought
that it might not have suited Gus to take them in: "It was
a new idea. Peter could not accept it right away. He felt he had
a proper grievance, that he was being picked on unfairly. It was
not easy to switch his mind to what Gus was putting up with on
his account" (The Circus is
Coming, 1938:199-200). Similarly, in The Growing
Summer, when Oonagh tells the children that they are being
ungrateful, they "were so surprised they were silenced. Ever
since they had been in Reenmore they had felt that they were brave
and uncomplaining, never once in their letters to their father
and mother had they hinted how awful Reenmere was, and how hard
they were expected to work. Now it took their breath away to hear
that a sensible person like Oonagh was on Aunt Dymphna's side,
and thought it was she who was suffering by having them in her
house" (The Growing Summer, 1966:183-4). Peter,
Santa and the Gareths have assumed that "people always look
after children" (The Circus
is Coming, 1938:204): eventually, they learn that, while
this is true, it does not mean that the adults will automatically
Editions and Availability
The Growing Summer was first published
in 1966 by Collins, with Edward Ardizzone illustrations. It was
reprinted in 1984.
Puffin released a paperback edition in 1968, which
was reprinted in the 1970s and 1980s with a photograph from the
television serial on the cover. The Edward
Ardizzone illustrations were retained.
An Armada Lion paperback was released in 1994.
It was released in the United States in 1967,
by Random House, as The Magic Summer. This edition was
reprinted in 1971.
A Dell paperback edition was released in 1967,
and reprinted (as a "Bantam Doubleday Dell Book for Younger
Readers") in 1987.
As I have not read the US editions, I do not know
if the text was in any way amended.
Still in print
The Magic Summer is
out of print in the US.
In the UK, Collins
released a paperback edition of The Growing Summer in
Publishers Ltd. © 1966 Noel Streatfeild
In 1969, London Weekend Television produced a six-episode serial
of The Growing Summer, starring Wendy Hiller as Aunt
Dymphna. It was filmed in Bantry Bay, and many of the scenes were
shot in the actual places Noel had envisaged when writing the
book - including the house of her friend, Rachel Leigh-White.
In the introduction to the 1971 Puffin edition, Kaye Webb (the
editor) says that Noel "has asked us to point out that the
television version has changed the order of the book in places.
There are also scenes that don't appear in the original story.
But that usually happens when a book is adapted for another medium,
especially when it is being serialised. The film won a silver
medal at the 1969 Venice Film Festival" (1971:1).