Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd

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Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Like all great picture books, Hairy Maclary is built on rhyme, rhythm, repetition and humour. It's vibrant, bright and alive. There are hundreds upon hundreds of picture books from which to choose when you're buying for your child. Put Hairy Maclary and his friends near to the top of your list.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 36 Date: July 2002
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
ISBN: 0670913502

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Hairy Maclary is a scruffy little black dog with a surfeit of fur and a tiny, nosy, pointed face with bright, mischievous eyes. In this book he and his friends are off for a walk and a good sniff of the neighbourhood. One by one they leave their houses and join the group of rather posy, show-off canine chums. There is Hercules Morse as big as a horse, the Great Dane, Bottomley Potts covered in spots, the Dalmatian, Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay, the Old English Sheepdog, Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony, the Greyhound, and (my personal favourite) Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum, the Dachshund. They roam around having fun sniffing the lamp posts and the telegraph poles, other peoples gates and each other. They're just like a group of dogs but they're just like a group of children too - prancing along, showing off and having a super time, until suddenly...

out of the shadows




the toughest tom



And of course our merry band don't feel like the owners of the neighbourhood any more, they stop swaggering along, they stop having such fun. Scarface Tom is terrifying. His grey fur is all puffed up, his eyes glower menacingly and, most frightening of all, they can see that he is the victor of many fights by the scars on his ragged, bitten ears. And then...

'EEEEEOWWWFFTZ!!' Said Scarface Claw

And off with a yowl, a wail and a howl, a scatter of paws and a clatter of claws run Hairy Maclary, Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Muffin McLay, Bitzer Maloney and Schnitzel von Krumm, straight home to bed!

Oh, I don't know what is the best thing about Hairy Maclary. It's all so good. I love the way Lynley Dodd makes the rhyme slow right down when Scarface Tom appears and then speeds it up again as the not-so-brave-after-all dogs beat their speedy retreat. It isn't just a tongue twisting repetition rhyme though. It has drama, and it gives you the chance to show your children how even a simple picture book can set a scene, build tension, and then release it in a glorious burst of humour. It's great if you act it out. Children love the incongruity of a band of big dogs being terrified by a smaller but much fiercer cat and they laugh because they know that silly as the show-off dogs look as they run away from Scarface Claw, they'd probably run away too, for he is very fierce indeed, that tough old tom cat. The rhyming text is deceptively simple - it contains a great deal of wit in its pithy, accurate observation of behaviour that is both exactly like that of a dog and also exactly like that of a child. It's the sort of wit that children themselves probably see and identify with more readily than any adult and above all it's fun to repeat, repeat and repeat again.

Perhaps the best thing of all about Hairy Maclary is Hairy Maclary himself.He's so real. Imagine a little black-haired dog, scruffy, busy, full-of-life. He looks a bit like one of those old fashioned Nanette dusters made from what look like bits of string, or a dark, much more unkempt version of Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, but with the addition of the skinniest little legs you ever did see. His bright eyes are always focusing right on whatever's just grabbed his attention and his scruffy little tail is always optimistically aloft. He's drawn with flamboyant bold strokes, and he seems to be all movement. In fact, apart from his head, those skinny little legs and the excited tail he looks more Hairy than Maclary. The rest of him is all coat. It seems to suit him perfectly though because he's never still enough to see whether there's a body under all that messy black fur. His friends all have their own, different but equally happy, moods about them.

A picture book really only exists for real when a child and a book come together, when the stream that has formed in the artist's mind and heart and humour flows through the book and into the mind and heart and humour of the child. Hairy Maclary does this, it really does. Children's minds don't have prejudice - they give their minds and attention freely to a book, and an inept or insipid one won't hold either. But when a picture book writer and illustrator get it right children immerse themselves - mimicking the comic characters, chanting the rhythmic words and examining the illustrations for hours and hours with a real awareness of mood and detail.

Hairy Maclary exists for real.

Another classic picture book that should make an appearance in every child's life is Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.

Booklists.jpg Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd is in the Top Ten Timeless Picture Books To Treasure Forever.

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