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,
all skinny and bony,
like a bundle of hay,
covered in spots,
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.