Tag Archives: Dixie O’Day

Henley Literary Festival: Clara Vulliamy

When the chance comes along to see one of your favourite author / illustrators at a location nearby, you don’t say no. Unfortunately I worked out my finances and it couldn’t be done. I also had to cancel four other planned bookish events in London. With fortuitous timing, a BritMums offer of complementary tickets to Henley Literary Festival popped up and I was lucky enough to get two.

The lovely @chaletfan from DYESTTAFTSA had alerted me to the event in the first place, and kindly offered a lift part of the way when public transport failed me, and it was great to meet up with her again. She is as lovely in real life as you’d imagine, you can read her review of the event here.

I don’t know Henley at all but fortunately had @chaletfan as a guide. The train station was right by the venue (if there’d been a train on time!) although you’d then have to go into the town centre to find the ticket office if you didn’t have tickets. We parked near the centre and the ticket office and venue seemed easy to find with a short walk between.

The room for the event was set out well, with tables for the craft session ready at the back of the room, plenty of chairs for grown ups and lots of floor space for children. Clara was ready at the front as everyone arrived, and all the elements ran smoothly. Huge thanks must go to Clare from Random House who made it run like magic.

When the event started, Clara talked through some of the story of Dixie O’Day and showed some of her favourite pages. She then did a live drawing whilst reading part of the first chapter. This was amazing. Seriously amazing. The complexities of two different classic cars plus drivers plus following the story including a very clever ninety degree twist of the paper near the end was just breathtakingly good. I may have had minor heart palpitations when she scribbled over Lou-Ella, but it was all part of the fun!

Clara Vulliamy at Henley Literary Festival 2013

The model car with felt Dixie and Percy made by the awesomely talented Josie was also on display and wow, it is as great in real life as you would expect. I am thrilled I got to see it.

The creative part of the event was for the children to design their own cars. Clara¬† encouraged the children to use their imaginations to create any kind of car but also supplied a brilliant sheet of kit for inspiration. The pictures will be up on the Dixie O’Day website.

I was really impressed with DG’s creations. She made three using all the bits supplied, but spent longest on her first one. She coloured the taps in red and blue for hot and cold water, and put poor Dixie and Percy in a cold water bath! The ice cream is blue because it is blueberry flavour – DG loves blueberries. Mmmm…

Designing cars at Henley Literary Festival 2013

We all had a wonderful time. DG loved making her cars and seeing Clara again and meeting @chaletfan. I geeked out on the model, listening to Clara, meeting Clare, and chatting with @chaletfan (including discussing how embarrassing it is to introduce yourself in real life by your twitter name!) Then we all relaxed with a drink and cake in the hot October sun (what is with the weather at the moment?!) and all was good with the world…

Disclaimer: I received two complimentary tickets to this event from the organisers via BritMums in exchange for a review, travel not included. I loved the event we went to, thought everything was organised brilliantly, and will be looking out for it next year. Thank-you, Henley Literary Festival and BritMums.

Dixie O’Day: In the Fast Lane

Dixie O'Day: In The Fast Lane: Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head, 2013)

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been written over and over in blogs and newspapers already? I can’t write an unbiased opinion of Dixie O’Day because I love Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy so much. As Polly at Little Wooden Horse says, the names on the front cover should have had you rushing out to buy this book as soon as it was released!

For anyone who has found this page by accident, and doesn’t already know, Dixie O’Day is a gentleman dog who, with his best friend Percy, drives an excellent motor car that he takes great care of. The car was not new but it was a very clean machine. Dixie and Percy get into some exciting scrapes, and this tale involves an all-day race between two towns. They have a worst enemy, Lou-Ella from next door, and lots of helpful friends.

Dixie O’Day is adoringly ‘retro’ in style. You’d be more likely to find Dixie and Percy listening to the radio than playing on iPads. Children are immensely adaptable. They may not have the cultural reference for the era (1960’s) that the book represents, but they accept it in the same way that talking dogs driving cars is completely normal.

The Dixie O’Day series has been designed with seven chapters so it can be read one for every day of the week. The chapters may have exciting cliff-hangers, encouraging anticipation for the next night’s story. It’s also possible to read in one go if you read lots to children but separating it into chapters allows busy parents a natural break point, and is just right for building early reading stamina.

I have been thinking, and writing, a lot about gender recently and it would be lax of me not to mention gender in relation to this book. The main characters are male, and the lack of female animal characters in picture books is something Carmen at Rhino Reads writes about compellingly. However, this book comes from the pens of two author / illustrators who are exemplary in their inclusion major female characters throughout their work. This particular story does happen to have more male characters. But let’s look at the two main female characters from In The Fast Lane in detail:

Lou-Ella
Lou-Ella is the neighbour from hell. She is a character you love to hate, somewhere between Cruella de Vil and Penelope Pitstop. She’s self-centred, mean and thoroughly unlikable. I’m not really selling this character to you? But she’s also an independent woman who can afford to buy a brand new car every year. There’s no husband behind the scenes or any implication that she’s a ‘kept woman’; she’s earning well and is motivated to get what she wants. There’s a lot of unknown back-story here, and much potential.

Auntie Dot
Auntie Dot may only appear on one page, but she is absolutely pivotal to the plot. Without her input, Dixie and Percy wouldn’t get the outcome they achieve. In a similar manner to Dave’s big sister Bella saving the day in Dogger, Auntie Dot is essential. You can’t get more positive than that. She’s also adorable and I hope we see more of her in future stories.

Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane is packed full of extras to hold the interest of today’s iPad generation. There’s the map of the route, interviews, quizzes, and so many things to see on every page that you could easily fill at least a month of activities riffing off different interests. There’s even a sneak peek at the second book in the series: The Great Diamond Robbery. MG and DG are huge fans of Dixie in his own right already, and this is a book we re-read regularly. I get to both read and be read to by MG, which is a lovely role reversal!

Future books will have different colour covers for instant identification, but the duotone interior will remain the same (how could we lose Dixie’s gorgeous red car?!) Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane is not only an important entry in the world of children’s literature on account of its creators, it’s an excellent start to an exciting series that children will love.

Related posts:
Interview at The Book Sniffer
Interview at Library Mice
Interview at Playing by the Book
Review from Little Wooden Horse
Review from Read It, Daddy
Review from Kate Louise (includes book trailer)

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane by Random House Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.