Review of small press and independent books.
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I was tipped off about this book by one of my ante-natal classmates. I believe it's originally antipodean, but in Britain it's published by Puffin. Hairy Maclary the shaggy black dog goes for a walk, and on every page he's joined by another of his dog friends - 'Hercules Morse, as big as a horse, Muffin McLay, like a bundle of hay, Bottomley Potts, covered in spots... and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy' - each name is added to the list which repeats on every page, so the effect is reminiscent of 'This is the driver, Mr. MacIvor, who drove the train to Glasgow'. There's a picture on every facing page, which shows the new dog arriving, while if you look closely enough, the tails and back paws of the other dogs can be seen disappearing.
How often do you get a children's book where all the rhymes REALLY scan? Some of them are so bad that you're half-way through before you realise that there's supposed to be a rhythm to them! I love the rhyme, I love the pictures, I love what Scarface Claw, the toughest Tom in town, said when all the dogs arrived at his lurking-place: this one definitely goes on the Classics Of The Future shelf alongside The Gruffalo and We're Going on a Bear Hunt.
... that fortunate boy called Donald Mac Brain who came to the station to catch the train and saw the guard from Donibristle wave his flag and blow his whistle to tell the driver, Mr MacIvor.... yup, they sure stick in your mind if they're wrote right!
Surely you mean ante-natal class mates - or do you go to a very modern school?
Oh, and I should add that Blossomkin Boo loves what Scarface Claw, the toughest Tom in town, said too, and I never get past that page without having to repeat it several times, with feeling!
There are actually a whole range of Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy books, and Pickleblossom's now got them all as a gift set in a canvas bag she can carry around, or rather take them all out of and strew them artistically along the hall. We like 'Hairy Maclary's Bone', where you start off with all the dogs that you'd collected at the end of 'Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy', and lose them one by one as Hairy Maclary takes a challenging route home in order to end up eating his bone all by himself, and Pickleblossom particularly recommends 'Hairy Maclary's Caterwaul Caper', in which Scarface Claw the toughest Tom in town gets stuck up a tree, and Mummy has to make irate cat yowls alternately with a different kind of bark for every one of the dogs. Mummy, on the other hand, prefers 'Hairy Maclary Scattercat', in which the eponymous hero chases a different cat on every page, because I like the use of language so much. In all the books, the verse is well-balanced, swings vigorously and rhymes properly, and the text uses rather more challenging words than you'd think the publishers would allow - I remember how much I liked words I didn't know when I was little - but this is a particularly choice example. For instance, on seeing an irresistibly twitching black furry tail round a corner, Hairy Maclary pounces 'with a bellicose bark and a boisterous bounce', which I think some parents will have to find a dictionary for, but sounds beautiful. The cats all have wonderful T. S. Eliot names like Greywacke Jones, Slinky Malinki and Pimpernel Pugh, and the illustrations are charming as well.
Last edited by RDGardner (2010-08-05 10:31:26)
Though we daren't take Hairy Maclary Scattercat with us when we visit Pickleblossom's devoutly Methodist and very nice grandparents, because when we come to the pages where you see the rear views of Pimpernel Pugh and Mushroom McGee disappearing over the wall and through the hedge, Pickleblossom points them out and announces "Cat bum-bum!"