'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 9 October 2014

Review: The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd

Right from the cover, this beautifully crafted book is delightful to look at, to hold and to read. But you wouldn’t expect a biography of Hairy Maclary’s creator, to be anything less.

“Meet Lynley Dodd.  I grew up in the middle of a very big pine forest ... I went to a very small school in the middle of the very big forest... We climbed trees and fell out of them….”

The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd is not just a story about a storyteller. It is a book that explores Lynley Dodd’s working world. It is as much a pictorial history as it is a written one, with at least one illustration on every page. There is a wonderful blend of biographical history written by author Finlay MacDonald, direct quotes from Lynley Dodd herself, rough sketches, photographs, and a mix of pictures and text from her acclaimed books.

The book begins with Hairy Maclary’s very own history; how he was created, including the first sketch on lined shopping paper, which inspired it all.

“It was just a scrap of paper I’d tucked between the pages of my ideas book”

The ‘never before seen’ workings from Lynley Dodd's 'ideas book' are generously scattered throughout the book, and are a true delight.

As you weave your way through this book, you will be intrigued by Dodd’s background; childhood, school life, life at art school, her teaching career, marriage, children and her journey in becoming a successful children’s author illustrator.

The book details the creation and publication of her first picture book in 1973, My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes, in collaboration with her cousin Eve Sutton. It goes on to relay the publisher’s story; Lynley Dodd’s relationship with Ann Mallinson, and the subsequent books that followed including the launch of the internationally applauded Hairy Maclary in 1983.

“And she turned to me and said, ‘Isn’t it extraordinary that Lynley Dodd can’t find a publisher,”

As well as her illustrations, the reader is taken through Dodd’s creative writing process; where her ideas come from, the drafting of words, the scan of each line, the rhymes and rough workings. Every step serves to give the reader an insight into the time consuming and meticulous method involved in creating a finished published book.

“A compulsive planner of her picture books, Lynley Dodd works and re-works each word, picture and frame until she is fully satisfied.”

The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd is both a tale of remarkable success and a window into a brilliant creative mind. If you are a lover of children’s literature, you’ll treasure this book as much as Hairy Maclary. Whether a collector’s item, a coffee table book or simply a work to inspire, you’ll want to keep coming back to it again and again. Beautifully produced, it’s certainly a recommend.

Title: The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd
Author:  Finlay MacDonald
Publisher: Penguin Books, $47.99 RRP
Publication Date: Oct 2013
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780143567967
For ages: 15+
Type: Non-fiction