Book Review: Hedgehog Howdedo, by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_hedgehog_howdedoThis classic by Lynley Dodd is set in the depths of winter as a young girl goes searching for all the hedgehogs hibernating in her garden. We count along with her, ‘two are on a ledge, I even saw three white ones in a hole behind the hedge’Finally the little girl sets down on her back door step and imagines what will happen when spring arrives and the hedgehogs wake up.

This gem of a book has everything we have come to expect from a Lynley Dodd book. It will bring adults back to their childhoods and introduce young readers to the delights of Lynley Dodd’s brilliant story-telling.

The text is sparse and perfectly targeted for the young reader. It contains her playful alliteration and parcels everything up in lilting melody. There is also her whimsical imagination – have you ever heard of a pizza plant before or dreamed about the noise of windywhistle grass?

This book would be wonderful to read on a cold winters night when the pictures mirror the cold view out the window. It carries the promise of warm spring days very soon as colour slowly emerges when the young girl dreams of the hedgehogs waking up.

Lynley Dodd is a national treasure for her contributions to young children’s literature – and rightly so. This book is the perfect bedtime story with her poetic text a joy to read aloud. The illustrations and gentle pace will lull young readers into a peaceful slumber with a smile on their face.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Hedgehog howdedo
written & illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143773023

 

Book Review: Yackety Zac, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_yackety_zacWhen Booksellers sent out an email recently with a photograph of children’s books to be reviewed, and an instruction to ‘choose 3’, it was a classic case of judging a book by the cover – or title, in this case. The title and cover illustration Yackety Zac pretty much tells you everything you are going to need to know about this book, and I HAD to have it.

Don’t think you won’t be surprised by Yackety Zac though.  Yup, Zac talks A LOT, but I wasn’t expecting his talk to be so precociously early, or in rhyme. The rhymes scan well, and trip of the tongue with ease. The language is also rich, and exposes children to words they might not otherwise use, in the best traditions of Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy – this is always a very good thing.

The illustrations are hilarious and vibrantly coloured. The expressions on the other character’s faces convey exactly everyone’s reactions to Zac’s incessant talking, while Zac is joyfully oblivious. I also love the subtle messages on the doctor’s clinic wall – a good reminder for everyone about the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.

The solution to Zac’s problem is funny and clever, and a nice play on an old idiom.  It ties up the story in a satisfying.  It was school holidays when I reviewed Yackety Zac, so I enlisted the help of my friend Lucas, who is 7, to give me his opinion. He thought it was very funny, and liked the conclusion as much as I did.

Lucas and I highly recommend this book for children from 3 years and up, and I think it will be a useful resource for teachers in particular (despite the rather unflattering portrayal of a teacher in the book!), to raise the issue of taking turn while talking in a humourous and fun way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Yackety Zac
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106451

Book Review: Wake Up, Bear by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_wake_up_bearI have to make a disclosure here – I have actually read Wake Up, Bear before. More times than I can count, in fact. First released in 1986, it was on my daughter’s bookshelf during her early years in the mid-late 1990s. Lynley Dodd was always a huge favourite of ours – we both loved the luscious language, the pace and humour, and the gorgeous illustrations. That was 20-some years ago, and while I still think Lynley Dodd is fabulous, do today’s six-year-olds still revel in her stories in what feels increasingly like a device-driven world?

The short answer is, yes. Children still love a well-written story, and I’ve yet to read a Lynley Dodd story that doesn’t qualify. My class were learning about seasons and life cycles at the time I read this story, so they were full of shared knowledge about bears hibernating and were actively predicting where the story might go. They loved joining in the refrain and were delighted and surprised by the joke at the end, which caused Bear to wake up.

Wake Up, Bear might be 32 years old but it is still as fresh and lively as the first time I read it. The illustrations are still delightful, the language is still rich and vibrant, and like all of Dodd’s books it is absolutely perfect for reading aloud. In an era when junior school teachers are in despair about the increasingly low levels of oral language of children starting school, I offer the following prescription: Some Lynley Dodd, daily. At least one book, more as demanded by the child. It would go a long way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Wake Up, Bear
by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143772569

Book Review: Scarface Claw, Hold Tight, by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_scarface_claw_hold_tightWhat child doesn’t like Hairy Maclary books? One of the benefits of living in Tauranga is taking my grandchildren to see yhe wonderful Hairy Maclary statues at The Strand down by the water. They make me realise how universal these characters are. All ages stroke them and comment about the books.

“The morning was peaceful
The birds in the trees
were fluffing their feathers
and teasing the bees.
Sunning himself
as he settled each paw
was lazy old sleepyhead,
Scarface Claw.”

Scarface gets himself in a bit of a jam , sunning himself on top of a car which drives off. Poor old Scarface hangs on for dear life.

As usual Lynley Dodd has written a book that small children just love. I read this to 3-year-old Quinn. She hung on every word, looking at the illustrations pointing to poor old Scarface clinging on for dear life. She was quite sure that he would fall off and hurt himself and end up at the vets. Quite a relief when we came to the end of the story and she saw that he survived.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight
by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143770985

Lynley Dodd, Adam Johnson, and more on Friday 16 May

I attended four great sessions today at the Auckland Writer’s Festival.

My favourite was Dame Lynley Dodd Dodd_Lynley_no_exceptions_MUST_credit_Tim Cuff(right, photo by Tim Cuff), in conversation with Michele A’Court. Hardly surprising that audience participation was par for the course with the first stanza from Hairy Maclary loudly and proudly repeated by all. How many other sessions would have had the whole book read by the author, with suitable sound effects from the very adult audience for Scarface Claw? All because Dame Lynley’s voice was compromised by a cold?

Dame Lynley talked about her early life, her early talent for drawing, her parents’ love of words and word play, and her fine arts training in sculpture; which all eventually came together in the magical combination of ordinary cats and dogs doing what ordinary cats and dogs do. Who needs talking animals, when as she said, so much language is exchanged in the eyes. And the stories that she finds to tell by simple daily observation are so good, no talking is needed. There was a wonderful anecdote of her meeting with Dr Seuss and she also shared how Hairy Maclary came to be. There should have been a much bigger plug for the recently published book by Finlay Macdonald, The life and art of Lynley Dodd, a beautifully presented hard back, packed full of illustrations from her many, many books on every page, as well as an entertaining read. This was the best money I spent all day.

Johnson_Adam_credit_Tamara_BeckwithI also really enjoyed Simon Wilson’s conversation with Adam Johnson (left), who won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature last year with The Orphan Master’s Son. I haven’t read the book, in fact I knew nothing about it other than a quick read of a plot summary on Google, which left me none the wiser!

Adam Johnson was a very entertaining and interesting man to listen to. He told us about a country and society − North Korea − that is the complete antithesis in every possible way from how we live and the freedoms we have. America was really the country/society held up for comparison. A handful of people manage to escape North Korea each year and it is the stories of these people that the author has told in this novel. He was able to go North Korea for only five days, where he was constantly monitored and minded, and he used this time to notice as much detail as he could. Things like the colour of houses and roofs.

The saddest thing I got out of his talk on North Korea was how the people have no history of storytelling and haven’t done ever since the Japanese invaded and forbade speaking in the Korean language. The author admits he has been obsessed with North Korea and its people, and his passion was very apparent as he talked about his writing of the book and the themes he explores. As well as reading two sections from this book, he also read a small excerpt from a story in his collection of short stories – about a 15 year old sniper working for the FBI. Unsettling.

Peter McLeavey has been well known cv_peter_mcleavey_life_and_timeson the Wellington art scene for many years,
operating out of his two rooms in Cuba St, with his distinctive white hair and black hat. The 2009 film , The Man in the Hat introduced him to the rest of New Zealand, and the 2013 biography by Jill Trevelyan gave us a much more in-depth study of this pioneer of the New Zealand art scene.

This session was chaired by Auckland Art Gallery director Rhana Devenport, with Jill Trevelyan and artists Yvonne Todd and John Reynolds on the panel. The overall tone of the session was one of reverence and wonder for all he had achieved for art and artists in New Zealand, but above all huge affection for this complicated and complex man, who called himself a travelling psychoanalyst. The session consisted mostly of anecdotes by the two artists of their dealings over the years with Peter McLeavey, both of whom were carefully nurtured and encouraged by Peter. Both would seem to have had at times prickly relationships with him, as he could be, as John put it, quite curmudgeonly! But somehow Peter seemed to manage the fine line between managing artists, encouraging and developing them, yet at the same time running a business, and marrying up potential buyers with works of art.

The author herself didn’t partake a great deal in the discussion, but her book was referred to throughout by the others, thumbed through, and read aloud from by Rhana. The highlight of the session was during the question and answer session, when Peter’s nephew who was in the audience, very succinctly narrated a conversation between his mother and Peter, about said nephew.

Hughes-Hallett, LucyThe last session was again for an author I didn’t know, and for a book I didn’t know anything about – Lucy Hughes-Hallett (left), a British cultural historian and biographer, and her biography of Gabriele D’Annunzio. This session was introduced by Geraint Martin, himself a great lover of history and literature.

D’Annunzio (below, right) is somebody you have probably never heard of. But how could one not be intrigued by this ‘poet, seducer and preacher of war’ who declared himself the greatest Italian poet since Dante. I think he is very well known in Italy for his exploits, but not so much in English speaking countries, although his writing was admired by James Joyce and Ernest Hemmingway. It would seem that his major occupation in life was the art of self-promotion and he did everything he possibly could to achieve this. Poet, novelist, seducer, airman and finally dictator of a small state in what is now Croatia for a period of time at gabriele_dannunziothe end of WWI.

Mussolini loved him and ‘borrowed’ much of his rhetoric, the black shirts and the straight arm salute from D’Annunzio. Ms Hughes-Hallett has written 600 pages about this incredibly interesting individual, and regaled us with an endless supply of stories about him. Are there still people like this in the world out there? Or was he simply the product of a time in Europe when enormous changes were taking place?

Events attended and reviewed by Felicity Murray, on behalf of Booksellers NZ. 

Book Review: The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd, by Finlay McDonald

This book is available in bookstores now

This is a beautifully produced book, and when I finishedcv_the_life_and_art_of_Lynley_Dodd reading it, I wondered idly how much of that was due to Lynley and possibly Ann Mallinson!

Finlay has done real credit to a national icon – Lynley, I mean, not Hairy Maclary – in the way he has clearly planned and then compiled this work. The biographical information comes through in various ways – sometimes using direct quotes from Lynley, other times simply related by the biographer, and by clever use of sketches, pictures and quotes from Lynley’s work.

However the other, previously-mentioned national icon comes through loud and clear also.
Lynley’s passion for words and metre, wit and (if I may) oddity of all kinds, and her extraordinary artistic talent struck me when, as a young librarian working in a public library, Hairy Maclary fell into my hands. I must have read that story to thousands of kids and never once did any child fidget or get restless. They were hooked from the first line. You can’t say that about many picture books. Hairy Maclary, and all the stories which followed, have that magical ability, and it’s no accident. The reason lies in the brilliance of the detail, the scan of each line, the clever rhymes, the repetition, and of course the wonderful characters you meet.

So it’s only fitting that a book about the creator of Hairy and all his mates reflects that.
One of the aspects of the book which really appeals to me is that on every page there’s a t least one illustration, and one gets such pleasure from exploring these and finding – in the case of illustrations from the books – new things to see; because these are not in the context of the whole work, I find that I had maybe missed (or more likely forgotten) some of the quirkier bits.

Lynley’s sketches, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the book – drafts, bits she noted in her workbook, part of letters, give another dimension to the text – enhancing and demonstrating the story of her life and art. I am particularly taken by the drawing on P. 73 of a worn-out mother – I think it should be part of a home-care kit for stressed parents!

I don’t want to retell work so well-told by Finlay Macdonald – all I will say is this: It’s a beautiful book, to hold, to read and to look at. It has balance, both in content and in design. It engages the reader in many ways – there is lots of insight into Lynley’s childhood and growing up, into her happy, almost-accidental relationship with Mallinson Rendel, into the highly professional way in which both Lynley and Ann Mallinson managed the enormous popularity of the Hairy Maclary stories and the music, dance and stage shows which came therefrom.

If your only knowledge of Lynley Dodd is because you read Hairy Maclary to your toddler, pick up this book and read it. You’ll be entranced, much as your toddler was when you read Hairy Maclary!

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd
by Finlay McDonald
Published by Penguin NZ
ISBN 9780143567967

Email digest: Tues 3 July 2012

This is a digest of our Twitter feed that we email out most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sign up here for free if you’d like it emailed to you.

Events
I’ve just updated the National Poetry Day calendar of events

Book News
Great NZ e-Books is reborn 

Hark! Booksellers
Reminder – Lonely Planet July Stocktake dates 25th July to 31st July

New business models

Here’s an interesting business model for selling e-books

From around the internet
“The downside of ebooks; you can’t throw them across the room when they suck”.

New release books
Tony ‘Tank’ Gordon: The life of a sporting legend by Rashelle Gordon

Opportunities
Win the new Slinky Malinki book by Lynley Dodd – tell The Children’s Bookshop (Kilbirnie)  us your favourite Lynley Dodd book memory.

Tuesday poem
The Year of the Mountain by James Brown