Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy - Lynley Dodd

posted Jan 26, 2015, 10:38 PM by Amie Ridley

“Out of the gate

And off for a walk


Almost every Kiwi Kid (or parent, grandparent, aunty or uncle) could tell you it was Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy who went off for a walk.  Where?  Well through his little township as usual, a township that somehow seems to represent every little township in New Zealand.  Dame Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary books are so well loved in New Zealand, that it’s easy to take for granted sometimes just how good they are.

The series is based around various animals that are woven into many stories: Hairy Maclary and his canine pals (most kids can also reel off their names and rhymed descriptions - my personal favourite is Muffin McClay like a bundle of hay), various cats, and other assorted animals that you might typically encounter in a Kiwi house.  But they are not anthropomorphised.  The animals do not talk, other than to make animal noises.  People sometimes talk but you don’t see their faces and so it really is all about the animals, having very normal animal adventures.

But they are cheeky, and mischievous, and get into all kinds of trouble - and it’s the humour and beautiful rhythm of the text that just seems to draw kids in.  And it’s the sense of rhythm and rhyme that I have really grown to appreciate as a parent too.

See it wasn’t until I was a parent that I realised how badly some rhyming books were written.  (warning: this paragraph is a rant, it is not about Ms Dodd’s books so feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you want…)  I have been heard mumbling loudly in the library on several occasions that “not all kids books have to rhyme so DON’T FORCE IT!”  Yes, it is a constant source of frustration that some authors just feel the need to force a story into a rhyme, with bad rhythm and very basic words.  It is my belief about rhyme that if you can’t just read the rhythm naturally as you go, then it’s not worth the effort to read it.  Dr Seuss is very good at this - you don’t feel shoved in or out of the rhythm of the words, and it’s a joy to just read.

So back to Lynley Dodd…  The stories are fun, and the rhythm of the words is so natural that you can just read away, lost in the story, never struggling to find the correct emphasis to make the rhyme work.  And then the best bit?  She doesn’t even always rhyme the stories…  Yes all the dogs and their names rhyme in the first part of Hairy Maclary but when you reach the climactic moment it doesn’t continue to rhyme - you can make all the delicious cat “eowing’ noises without feeling like you are forced into an unnatural pace.  And she does this whenever she needs to in the books - the words and pacing are more important than a forced rhyme, and from a parent who values this very much, a hearty THANK YOU to you Ms Dodd

The other thing I do so love about these stories is the words - the delicious, big, sometimes ridiculous words that she uses. They are not the basic words of early readers, but beautiful, descriptive, and above all will help your children enjoy the beauty of words now and in the years to come.  And surely that is what a good book does.