My daughter and I absolutely adore Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary books. Here are five reasons why you should share these books with children, whether at home or in school.
1) These books are perfect for dog lovers.
The books capture the life of a dog superbly (and cats). The life of a dog is a wondrous thing to observe and appreciate. One thing I have learned from animal-loving Ricky Gervais is to take inspiration from dogs and their love for life. Dogs are the masters of the easy, stress-free life and we can learn so much from them. Lynley Dodd’s stories are simplistic yet wonderful, just like the dogs who star in them. Watching Hercules Morse *whispers ‘as big as a horse’* half- basking in the hot sun with his tail gently wagging reminds us to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. The image of an outstretched paw from Slinky Malinki reminds me of the gentle satisfaction achieved from stretching and taking your time. I love reading these parts of the story to my daughter with a smooth and calm voice like an M&S advert or an Attenborough documentary. I’m demonstrating the power of intonation and oracy here, showing my daughter how to bring that theatrical performance into a good read. The best way to immerse the reader into the book is to bring it to life in the way that you read it. I’ll touch more on this later.
2) Drama, Drama, Drama!
I take great pleasure in reading books as if I’m on stage, yet I can only do this when children are the audience as they allow me to read without inhibitions. The Hairy Maclary books are packed with bustling bursts of energy and calamitous caterwauling that demands a theatrical read. These books will sharpen up your performance when you read (and it should be a performance when you’re reading to younger minds). Through evolution, as a species we have relied heavily on story telling as a form of entertainment and a tool to spread wisdom. Story telling is a core part of our existence and I believe the art of storytelling is sacred, therefore we should commit ourselves to reading with bravado and passion.
3) The illustrations are comical, nostalgic and lively.
Picture books are art. I marvel at the work of talented illustrators with their insane ability to portray the story, the moment, a character or even our thoughts. I consider the dogs and cats in the Hairy Mclary books to live in the next street along from Tom and Jerry, due to the illustrations. Immediately, I am reminded of my childhood of watching Tom and Jerry and I am instantly reassured that I am going to enjoy this. When reading these books to children, I spend more time looking at the images and asking them what their thoughts are or what their predictions are for the next page. Clues of what is about to happen next are scattered throughout the books and these allow the children to predict and infer. Two very important skills for reading.
As mentioned earlier, these books capture the lives of dogs and cats. I love the image of Muffin McLay *mutters ‘like a bundle of hay’* having his bath in the oversized, wooden tub and the image of Pimpernel Pugh and Mushroom Magee ‘furtively lurking’ through the shadows.
4) Lynley Dodd’s books are packed with superb choices of words and phrases. I had to split the vocabulary into three different parts!
Vocabulary part 1 – I love the word choices in these books more than anything! Underused words such as footled and skedaddled are littered in these books and each one is a golden nugget when I come across them. These mimetic words are intentionally playful and fun like dogs. The word-nerd inside me obsesses over these clever word choices, making this reason to read the books the most enjoyable for me as a reader. A great example of Lynley Dodd’s diligent word choices is when Hairy Maclary is chilling in the sun. See below how the image and words go hand in hand as soft tones and essences of haze shroud the page equally in the illustrations and words. The audience can hear the bees in the air as the reader buzzes and sounds each zzz and sss.
Vocabulary part 2 – My partner used the book ‘SIT!’ in an interview stage, where she had to develop the vocabulary of the group of children. When she read the book to her group, they were showered with great verbs that described how the dogs travelled. It’s no secret that learning is much easier when it is fun and what better way is there to do introduce a wider range of vocabulary than through a funny story. Children giggled and chortled their way through their learning, as they watched chaos unfold page after page. Side note- My partner really enjoyed delivering the short vocabulary lesson and furthermore was offered a position in the school!
Vocabulary part 3 – I started my educational career in the Early Years Foundation Stages and I never forget my roots. These books are great to share with the little ones because they have rhyme and repetition throughout. Granted the language at times will not be accessible, however, the stories are easy to follow through the wonderful illustrations and the young children will love finishing off the rhymes when you pause. My daughter loves finishing the dog’s names and I enjoy trying to make up my own dog names to rhyme with. Here are some of the dogs…
Bottomley Potts… …covered in SPOTS
Bitzer Maloney… …all skinny and BONY
Schnitznel Von Krumm… …with a very low TUM
5) Sense of humour.
These books are hilarious! I’ll allow you to find your own moments of hilarity in these books but I will share one of my favourite funny moments. Maclary and the gang are losing their minds barking to a cat stuck up a tree. They have the cat cornered and their purpose of being a strong, cat-defeating dog has never meant so much to them. Brimming with courage and self-importance, they stick out their furry chests and bark. To their dismay, the cat is soon rescued from the tree and placed on the ground. The once fearless gang then hide with their tails tucked away and their presence diminished. The cat flees the scene and the dogs return with this false sense of nobleness. They leave the scene smug as if they’ve taught the cat a lesson and done all dog-kind proud. I remember my daughter falling to pieces with laughter when I re-enacted these moments of the story.
Children need to be read to daily and more and more of us are introducing our children to the fantastic world of literature. Parents, litter your bed time reading to your children with these books! Teachers, treat your class with the books as the end of day reads!