Friday 13 September 2013

ReadItDaddy's SECOND book of the week - Week ending 13th September 2013 - "Dixie O'Day in the Fast Lane" by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head)

Dixie O'Day 
In the Fast Lane

Written by Shirley Hughes

Illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

Published by Bodley Head

What can we say? What CAN we say? We had the toughest of tough choices this week to choose between a fabulous cat (well, Tiger) book or a book featuring a dashing doggie duo - we couldn't separate them so once again you're treated to a double helping of Book of the Week goodness! You lucky people!

When I first heard that Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy were teaming up for a book, I nearly fell off my chair. This is the sort of news that makes a children's book blogger deliriously happy. Mum and daughter, both hugely talented, collaborating on something that - as we followed, teetering on the edge of our seats with every twist and turn during the book's development - shaped up to be something truly special.

And special it is. For starters it features utterly wonderful classic cars woven into the story of Dixie O'Day, a rather dapper gentleman dog and his (slightly rough around the edges) sidekick Percy. Both enjoy a good biscuit dunked in their tea (Dixie likes a custard cream while Percy is like Charlotte, completely hooked on Jammie Dodgers - bless 'em!), both enjoy a drive out in the countryside in Dixie's fabulous classic Ford Zephyr soft-top, and both definitely love a good race.

The format of this book is special too. We've been clamouring about early chapter readers featuring full illustrations throughout for quite a long time. Previously we've seen very few of these (in fact the only other examples I can think of in Charlotte's collection are the sublime "Claude" series from Alex T. Smith and the utterly brilliant "Harry and the Lady Next Door" by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy-Graham) but the genius of "Dixie O'Day in the Fast Lane" is splitting the book into five bedtime-sized chapters that can be enjoyed over the space of a week. So you get the bonus of a longer book, divided into bite-sized chunks, but with a little more depth and substance than your average picture book. HOORAY for this format, please please please can we have some more?

Lou Ella, she's like a female Terry-Thomas. A thoroughly bad egg! (LOVE that Diner though!)

We loved the 'background info' and exquisite extra details in the book, which echoes Clara's wonderful "Bunny Brothers" series. The Q & A with Dixie was lovely, as were the various activities and games to play on long car journeys.

But what of the story itself? Dixie and Percy seem to inhabit a world that you really would want to live in. A world where Zoom lollies taste so mouth-wateringly perfect that you instantly crave another after you've finished one. A world where badgers run the local 50s-themed diner and garage, or where waspish neighbours (actually Lou Ella was Charlotte's favourite character - "She is me!" she proudly bellowed, though I don't think she's really that bad!) will stop at nothing to win a local car race.

On the cars in this book - poor Clara has had to listen to me 'droning on' about cars on Twitter for ages but she clearly knows her stuff. We did love Dixie's fabulous Ford but we also rather loved Lou Ella's racey E-Type Jag-alike, and the mouse with his tractor / cheese caravan. Weirdly though, intentional or not, this car was like greeting an old friend again...

...purely because it reminded me of my absolute FAVOURITE toy car from childhood - this little beauty, the Corgi Jet Car:

(I don't think mine had a droopy nose like that though, eeks!)

Charlotte loves this book, because it's exciting, thrillingly paced, and though she proudly claims she's Lou Ella, I think she's got a secret crush on Percy who is welcome to share her mini snack-time Jammie Dodgers any time.

Oh - and one final thing, best bit of the book by far is what you'll find at the end - the welcome confirmation that we will be seeing more of dashing Dixie O'Day and Percy in "The Great Diamond Robbery" next. HOORAY!

Charlotte's best bit: Lou Ella. Fashion icon, but definitely not the sort of person you'd want to live next door to or be in a race with! Boo Hiss!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A genius format, a brilliant story, two of the most talented ladies in the business (who just happen to be mother and daughter) working together in an absolute dream of a book. Don't hang around, go and live life in the fast lane with Dix and Perc!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Random House / Bodley Head)