It is rather amazing that a very ordinary little shaggy terrier called Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy became an international literary celebrity. But from the moment he first trotted out of his gate to go for a walk little kids have loved hearing about his little adventures.
Over five million copies of Hairy Maclary books have been sold worldwide. Their global readership includes the royal family. There’s even been a stage show and Hairy Maclary merchandise.
It just goes to show that this generation of kids may have kindles and iPads but they still love a good book as well.
After the first Hairy Maclary of Donaldson’s Dairy story came out nine more followed. Now all have been bundled together in the Hairy Maclary Treasury (with a CD included).
I asked my 9 year old granddaughter Emily, a bookworm, to be my co-critic. She was having a holiday sleepover with us. In no time at all she had read the Hairy Maclary’s Treasury from cover to cover and was keen to give her opinion.
‘Little kids will love it,” she said, “because the pictures are nice and big, the dogs are cute (especially the spotty Dalmatian). There are lots of rhymes and rhythm, the stories are easy to follow and the words are not too difficult except for the dogs’ names which little kids might find hard to say or read.”
“Agreed,” I said, “except for those names. I think they would love getting their tongues around curious words like Hercules Morse as big as a horse, Bottomley Potts covered in spots, Muffin McClay like a bundle of hay, Blitzer Maloney all skinny and bony and Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum.
But why have a CD? Surely little kids would rather snuggle up with their parents or grandparents and have the stories read to them?”
“It’s for in the car,” said Emily. “You put it on so kids don’t get bored on a long journey. Mum used to do that.”
Having nothing further to add she went off to practice cartwheels and to bury her nose in her favourite Harry Potter Book.
It has surprised me that Lynley Dodd is not a dog owner as she is such an acute observer of animal behaviour. The story about Hairy McLary and his bone was inspired by her noticing a dog walking down the street with a bone.
Hairy Maclary is given a meaty bone by the butcher and is on his way home to enjoy it. He is seemingly oblivious to the fact that all his canine buddies are following him hungrily sniffing and licking their chops hoping to snatch it off him. But because of the different ways they are built each in turn meets an unsurmountable obstacle and falls by the wayside. So lucky Hairy Maclary can keep his bone.
The Hairy Maclary Treasury would be a lovely book to have around in the holidays when grandchildren are likely to be dropped off and need to be kept amused. The stories are so full of fun and mischief and so well written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd that they won’t mind hearing them again and again.
Title: Hairy Maclary Treasury. Author: Lynley Dodd. RRP $50.00. Imprint: Puffin.
If you are having older grandchildren to stay in the holidays and they enjoy reading having a few good YA (Young Adult) novels on hand will keep them happily occupied. But ask beforehand what kind of genre they like to read. Teenagers in my experience, have very individual tastes.
You don’t have to be a teenager to enjoy a good YA novel like Kate de Goldi’s, From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle. This is a book that both young and old can enjoy. The manuscript is written by an unnamed hospital-bound man while recovering from the injuries he sustained in a city–wide catastrophe. He feels that writing this story will help him to remember his vanished world.
With a beginning like that you could be forgiven if you think that this will turn out to be one of those gloomy nightmarish dystopian novels but thankfully it is not. Although towards the end the story becomes darker the main focus is on reimagining the lives of a small community in Christchurch before the earthquake struck.
The protagonist Barney Kettle is a very passionate and somewhat megalomaniac twelve year old who dreams of becoming a famous film director one day. His helpmate is his younger sister Ren. They live in the local junkshop.
Barney had already made four short movies before he decided to make a documentary called the Untold Story about his street and its residents. They are happy to oblige and have many amusing stories to tell.
While making this documentary Barney and Ren keep finding small zines (mini illustrated stories) in plain envelopes addressed simply to YOU that they come to believe are for them. Could there be a connection between these zines and the series of small thefts from local shops? Barney and Ren are keen to solve this mystery and to track the culprits down and make a very surprising discovery.
Kate de Goldi has a wonderful way with words that make the street come to life. Although From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle is fiction the story is based on her own memories of Christchurch so it rings true. It is likely to make Cantabrians feel nostalgic about a part of their world which has been lost. But I found it a really good read and am happy to share it with my granddaughters.
Title: From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle. Author: Kate de Goldi. RRP: $30.00. Imprint: Longacre Child.
By Lyn Potter. Read more here.