Hairy Maclary is 25
By Trevor Agnew
“It is impossible to read the Hairy Maclary books without laughing,” said Ann Mallinson of Mallinson Rendel, “Lynley Dodd always makes me laugh.”
The scene was the Children’s Bookshop in Christchurch on Thursday 15th May 2008 and the event was the launching of the 25th Anniversary edition of Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy.
Margaret Mahy admired the stack of glittering new books, each with its CD of the Hairy Maclary song. “What wonderful books they are. With picture books there’s a difference between a picture book that that goes along with the text and the true picture book where the text and the pictures are an essential part of one another. With the Hairy Maclary books you can’t imagine the text without the pictures.”
“I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the sequence as the various dogs are introduced. ‘Bottomley Potts all covered in spots’.” Margaret then recited some lines from memory. ‘Schnitzel von Krumm with a very large tum.’ She mentioned the detail of Lynley Dodd’s pictures, and the way that each dog had an appropriate house and gate. “Bottomley Potts’ gate is very elegant. They’re part of the charm of the story, the connection with the story. They’re part of the connection that children have had with Hairy Maclary over the years.”
“These books have been with us for 25 years; they’ve become part of what we’ve said and read to our children and grandchildren,” said Margaret Mahy. “There’s been an interweaving. I can’t help feeling there’s something wonderful going on there – asindeed there is. Lynley’s books, and the association between the text and pictures, have become part of the reading and writing of our children. That’s history, the history of story, and it’s wonderful.”
Ann Mallinson presented Margaret Mahy with a copy for her youngest grandson, so Margaret gave it its 25th anniversary reading. “Any of us can join in with this because we know it so well. It’s a magical book.” Margaret read the appropriate lines, then waited. The crowd packed around the shelves of the Children’s Bookshop took their cue, and chanted, “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy.”
“You see,” said Margaret triumphantly, “We all know it!”
“This is a special occasion for me,” said Lynley Dodd, “but it is far more special to have Margaret Mahy here. You have no idea what kudos I get when I go around schools, and the children ask if I know Margaret Mahy. I say yes and they’re so impressed.”
Lynley told how her husband Tony had asked, “Do you think it’s time to have Hairy Maclary tumble over the Reichenbach Falls in a final fatal duel with Scarface Claw?” Lynley felt that Hairy would end up hanging from a branch anyway.
Lynley explained that there had been no particular expectation when the book was first published in 1983. After a while Ann had told her, “I think we might need a second.” “Now 25 years have gone and there have been 18 books,” said Lynley. “It’s been an exciting ride and we’ve had to hold on to his tail very tight.”
She described how there are now yachts, CDs, puzzles, games, horses and a theatre group named after Hairy Maclary. He’s even on the best-stealer list. A Bay of plenty shoplifter had been so determined in her theft of Hairy Maclary titles that some booksellers had to keep them under the counter.
She described the frustration of early attempts at creating a soft toy. Rejected prototypyes resembled a bear and an axolotl. “It was naked and white,” recalled Lynley with repugnance. She knew that the final soft toy was a success when a Melbourne boy asked her, “Did you kill and stuff that dog yourself?”
Lynley told how Ann gave a publisher in an unnamed Asian country permission to produce a local edition. Early faxes showed the pictures looking a little odd, so Ann enquired further. The publisher explained, “With our market, we thought it would be nicer to turn him into a mongoose.”
“Never a dull moment with Hairy Maclary,” concluded Lynley.
The 25th edition has letters from children to Lynley on the endpapers:
“I like Scarface Claw because he looks angry.”
“Your book Scattercat was excellent. I would give it ten out of ten…It taught me how to fight my brother.”
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy Lynley Dodd, Mallinson Rendel, Wellington NZ, 36 pages, hardback, NZ $30. ISBN 978-1-877423-17-8 Includes CD of the Hairy Maclary song by Jackie Clarke.
Winner: NZ Picture Book of the Year, 1984
Commended: Russell Clark Award for Book IllustrationPlatinum bestseller.
Over one million copies sold worldwide.