Lynley Dodd's chaos theory

Hairy Maclary creator Lynley Dodd shares magic behind her books

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ART FORM: "I've stuck with pen, paper and paint," says Hairy Maclary creator Lynley Dodd, pictured here painting the cat Scarface Claw in her home studio in New Zealand.

ART FORM: "I've stuck with pen, paper and paint," says Hairy Maclary creator Lynley Dodd, pictured here painting the cat Scarface Claw in her home studio in New Zealand.

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Hairy Maclary creator, author and illustrator Dame Lynley Dodd, shares her 'animal magic' behind the creatures in her award-winning picture books.

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REMEMBER Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy? Can you believe that lovable scruffy black dog - who trots around town with his posse of furry friends - is all grown up and turning 37 next year.

What started as a pet project, quite literally, for Hairy Maclary's creator - celebrated New Zealand author, illustrator and animal lover Dame Lynley Dodd - decades ago, has grown into an internationally successful empire.

According to Lynley, it all started with a sketch in her scrapbook of a small hairy dog with pointy ears. Under the drawing she scribbled the words: One morning at nine, on the way to the park, went Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy.

"This went on to become VERY useful," said Lynley, adding that the Hairy Maclary and Friends series "almost seemed to write itself".


Hairy Maclary, Shoo p.2 Lynley Dodd, 2009. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Penguin Random House New Zealand.

Hairy Maclary, Shoo p.2 Lynley Dodd, 2009. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Penguin Random House New Zealand.

There are now 21 books in the series with foreign editions published in Sweden, Japan, Slovenia, Russia, Korea and China. And since winning the prestigious Esther Glen Award with Eve Sutton for the classic picture book My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes in 1975, Lynley has gone on to write more than 30 picture books.

"Children love a bit of chaos and Lynley's stories always have a layer of that, and lots of mischief," said writer Penelope Jackson, who has worked with Lynley for more than a decade.

Penelope is curator ofThe Lynley Dodd Story, an exhibition of original illustrations opening soon at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum in Lilydale.

Here big, and little, fans of Lynley's characters - including Hairy Maclary - can trace the evolution of Lynley's work and discover the magic behind her process.

'Pet'spiration

Of course, the starting point for many of these characters was Lynley's own pets, and the mayhem they cause, including her childhood cat Squib "a large grey tabby tomcat who would take on anything and often found himself in scrapes".

He became the inspiration for Scarface Claw "the toughest Tom in town" - the cat that chases Hairy Maclary and buddies all the way home.

But as Lynley tells The Senior from her country home in Tauranga on New Zealand's North Island, "Squib was in fact a soppy smoocher at home, not something that he would have wanted the neighbourhood cats to know. After all he had a reputation to keep up."

It was another moggie, the Dodd family cat Wooskit, who was the inspiration for My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes and later, Slinky Malinki, while her dog Shaun the daschund became Schnitzel von Krumm ("with the very low tum").

In fact, Lynley is never short of animal muses for her books, although fans like to come up with suggestions. A woman at Caboolture thought a guinea pig would be a good addition to her gang of characters.

As well as the lovable cast of creatures, the appeal for readers of any age is her use of humour and rhymes - from Bottomley Potts "covered in spots" to the Cat from Norway "who got stuck in the doorway".

"I've spent a lifetime making up silly words and names, starting with competitions with my father and then under the influence of Spike Milligan and The Goon Show," said Lynley, who also cites British satirical cartoon magazine Punch as an influence.

I've spent a lifetime making up silly words and names. - Dame Lynley Dodd, Hairy Maclary creator

It was a Punch cartoon, of birds struggling to find a perch in an urban concrete jungle, that inspired her first foray into writing with The Nickle Nackle Tree in 1976.

The rhyming "counting" book lists 14 species of imaginary birds - from the Ballyhoo bird and squawking Skritchets to cheeky Chizzles, singing Throstles and fussy Fissick birds - who all live in the Nickle Nackle tree that grows in the "Manglemunching Forest". That is, of course, until they all fall off the overloaded branches.

While the rhymes roll off the tongue and are a delight to read aloud, Lynley admits writing them doesn't always come easy.

"Years ago I was given a useful list of ingredients for children's books. They were: rhyme, rhythm, humour, suspense and home," she said. "But rhyme, which is wonderful if well done, is very difficult to do successfully. It's one of the reasons I have to do so many drafts!"

While technology has changed over 40 years, her creative process hasn't altered.

"I've stuck with pen, paper and paint, so my work has stayed very much the same," she said. "This is partly owing to the fact that 21 of my 34 books belong to a series, which requires a similar 'signature' look."

Penelope says it is this classic approach, familiarity and use of humour, which provides such intergenerational appeal.

"There are generations of fans now," she said, adding that the exhibition is aimed at all ages. "When it comes to book signings, it's lovely to see adults lining up with with their well-loved copies they've had since childhood."

And fans who can't make it to the exhibition shouldn't fret: Lynley is working on a new title. "Yes, I do have a new book on the go," she said. Watch this space.

Meet Lynley Dodd

The Lynley Dodd Story exhibition is at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, 35-37 Castella Street, Lilydale, from September 7-January 26, 2020.

Meet the author at An Evening With Lynley Dodd event, for people aged 16 and over, on September 6, 6pm-8pm, $10 (bookings essential). The Family Fun Day is on September 7, 12noon-4pm, free.

Penelope Jackson and Lynley Dodd will be holding a writer's masterclass on September 8, 2pm, followed by afternoon tea and book signing, $20 (bookings essential, places limited).

For details go click HERE or phone (03) 9294-6511.

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