Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)
Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review Wednesday

Hairy Maclary
By Lynley Dodd

For the most part I dislike children's' books. With young childers you end up reading so many, and find yourself reading and rereading the same ones a million times. A good children's book is great, but in my opinion the good ones are few and far between.

For some reason there seems to be this misconception that kids' books are easy to write and draw, and so every man and his dog has a crack at it. The result is the abundance of not very good stuff out there.

There are the ones that try too hard to be deep and poignant, and talk about big heavy issues, but end up being kind of creepy or preachy. Or there's the ones that are supposed to rhyme, but lack any kind of easy to read rhythm. Or there's the ones with about seventeen paragraphs of writing for every illustration. Or three words per page so you go cover to cover in about 20 seconds. Or the ones where they've hired the friend of the authors' daughters' next door neighbours' mechanic to draw the pictures. Irksome!

Which brings me (finally) to the Hairy Maclary series by Lynley Dodd. We only have two of the large series, 'Show Business' and 'Slinky Malinki', and I have read each of them probably 50 times. But they are always a pleasure, and I never get tired of them. The stories are a good length, fun and exciting, and very competently illustrated. There's a set group of animal characters that can each take the spotlight, so theoretically the series could be endless.

But the real strength of the books is the words, and the way they sound read aloud. The flow is so rhythmic and fun to read, that you scoot along at a good pace without getting bored or confused. And you end up memorising the phrases, and the kids do too, so you end up reading them together. Even a list of characters is fun to read-

"Schnitzel von Krumm
with a very low tum,
Bitzer Maloney
all skinny and bony,
Muffin McClay
like a bundle of hay,
Bottomley Potts
covered in spots,
Hercules Morse
as big as a horse

and Hairy Maclary
from Donaldson's Dairy"

So if you are looking for a book that won't get annoying by the second read, and will be enjoyable for both your kids (of any age) and you as well, you can't go past Lynley Dodd and good ol' Hairy Maclary. She definitely knows what she's doing.


Karen said...

They are good, aren't they. I still like reading these even after having read them to three children...and I am looking forward to reading them to the fourth one!

Lynley Dodd's books certainly are stayers. And the dogs and cats are very nicely illustrated as well.

Gary Ware said...

Apart from the obvious bias in the way poor Slinky gets outrageously and prejudiciously maligned, they are very good reads.

KIM said...

Hairy Maclary is fabulous; I agree wholeheartedly.

But but but!! While there are, granted, some atrocious children's books, there are oh so many amazing ones as well. Dr. Suess, Mem Fox, Eric Carle, Margret and H.A. Ray, Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Leo Lionni, Robert McCloskey, Frank Asch, Michael Bond, Don Freeman, James Herriot, Beatrix Potter, Janette Sebring Lowrey, Felicia Bond, Peggy Parish, Miriam Cohen, Mercer Mayer, Barbara Samuels, Daniel Pinkwater, James Marshall, Karen Ackerman, Chris Van Allsburg and May Gibbs, among many others, all spring to mind.

Ruth said...

We love the hairy mc series. I love her use of language- enjoyable not only to read to kids, but also just enjoyable saying out loud!

Daily said...

My all time favourite book like this (that is great rhyme and rhythm) is "Mr Brown can moo can you" by Dr Seuss. I grew to love it when we went on a 9 hour plane flight with an 18 month old and I read it perhaps more than 30 times. It is like some type of verbal music, and when authors get it right it highlights how bad some other kids books are.

Ben McLaughlin said...

Thanks for your comments guys, sorry for the late reply. I'm happy to hear everyone likes H. Maclary.

Here's my fav other kids stuff- The Ahlbergs, Eric Carle (brilliant artist), Maurice Sendak (although everything other than Wild Things is kinda weird), Pamela Allen, A A Milne and any Roald Dahl/Quentin Blake collaboration.

And for my anti-picks, my strong dislikes, I'd say Anthony Browne (creepy, and unattractive) and Shaun Tan (derivative and too preachy). So ner.

ps- a short word on Dr Suess: I grew up loving his stuff, but now as an adult, I find them a little disconcerting. It's mainly the drawings. What's up with those hairy fingers, for example?