DAME Lynley Dodd’s New Zealand childhood was filled competing with her father to think up silly names such as his affectionate nickname for her, Arabella Slapcabbage.
This answers a lot about the author/illustrator who has become famous for her much-loved children’s book characters including Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinki, Schnitzel von Krumm, Bottomley Potts, Hercules Morse and Scarface Claw.
Dodd’s life and work is celebrated in The Lynley Dodd Story exhibition, curated by fellow New Zealander Penelope Jackson and showing at the State Library of WA for the AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things.
Dodd, a trained sculptor and lover of all animals, was in Perth for the exhibition opening and said she never dreamed of a career in children’s books, certainly not one lasting more than 30 years with 34 publications.
“I never thought I’d do more than one Hairy Maclary book, let alone a series, but my publisher said they wanted a second,” Dodd said.
“I’d just bought my week’s meat and was in my car when suddenly I saw a large dog walking away from the butcher’s with a whole load of meat and bones hanging from his mouth.
“The butcher had clearly been very kind and the dog was on his way but I wondered how he was going to get home without his friends getting that lot from him.
“A little light bulb went off and there was Hairy Maclary book two.”
Jackson, who has known Dodd for 10 years, said it was this simplicity and familiarity in the stories that spoke to readers across several generations.
“The exhibition is very much about Lynley’s practice,” Jackson said.
“People have this strange idea about children’s books that you can just knock one up after lunch when actually they take as long as a novel, at least a year from beginning to end.
“Some of those books will have 22 drafts to get it right which is why we included some of those preparatory drawings in the exhibition, so people can get a sense of where the characters have evolved from.
“In New Zealand we think Lynley’s books are quintessential New Zealand in many ways and then you come over here and they’re so international and loved.”
The Lynley Dodd Story exhibition runs until January 27, 2016.