More than just sheep, hobbits and Russell Crowe

New Zealand has contributed to the world in a fine way. It gives us such delights as excellent wool, scenery from the Lord of the Rings movies, and of course Russell Crowe. (Swoon to some of my favorite movies of his: Cinderella Man, Gladiator, and more recently: The Next Three Days) Something must be going right in that “other” (smaller, more expensive) place down under.

But this country has born to us a superb author as well who often escapes the notice of millions of well meaning booklists that I’ve read: Lynley Dodd. Lynley Dodd is best known for her mischievous, bumbling dog: Hairy Maclary. Her books are each a rhyming masterpiece and her adjectives–be they real words or not– are sizzling, stunningly, superb. Indeed, if one was ambitious, these books could be used as vocabulary units all on their own. Joining Hairy Maclary are other snaffling creatures like Slinky Malinky, Zachary Quack and my favorite: Schnitzel Von Krumm. Isn’t that a glorious name?! Let’s indulge ourselves again: Schnitzel Von Krumm.

As if being a talented writer and poet isn’t enough, Dodd illustrates her own books too. While her artwork isn’t necessarily the masterpieces of some, it is an exactly perfect accompaniment to the text. Indeed I can not envision someone like Barbara Cooney or Robert McCloskey being able to capture the antics of her animals as well as she does.

In New Zealand, children there were once able to watch animated versions of Lynley Dodd’s books on television. I’ll post an example simply so you can get an idea of the text, not because I’m a fan of animated story books. In fact, keep in mind that these books weren’t MEANT to be cartoons and as such, the speed and cadence with which the voice-over is narrating is all wrong. It comes out much smoother and more flowing from a kind hearted mother holding the hard copy book, especially if she’s able to mimic some kind of European accent. I’ve done it in English, German and Irish accents so far… I may find it more amusing than my kids but just you try it: there’s just something delicious about Dodd’s cadence and word choice that begs for an irregular voice. So get thee to the library and place some books on hold and laugh for me when you meet the likes of Bitzer Maloney, “all skinny and bony”…