Early Readers,  Little Book

Dixie O'Day: In the Fast Lane

Shirley Hughes and Clara Vaulliamy (illustrator)
dixie O'dayIntroducing Dixie O’Day and also, of course, his friend Percy! This dashing duo are always getting into adventures – here they enter the All-Day Car Race little knowing what is ahead of them! Dixie and Percy run into all sorts of peril, as does their arch enemy, Lou Ella. But who will win, and will Lou Ella get her comeuppance?
It gives me great pleasure to introduce two dashing gentlemen, Dixy O’Day, the bow tie wearing, responsible car owner, and his best friend, co-driver, and all round good chap, Percy. These furry fella’s enjoy the simple things in life; Sunday motoring in the country, picnicing at the seaside and relaxing in the evening with a good cup of tea and their favourite biscuits. Not that they are adverse to a little excitement, which is handy as they do seem to get themselves in to tricky scrapes with alarming regularity!
While we still enjoy sharing our favourite picture books, my six-year-old daughter has started to request “grown up” chapter books for her pre bed reading. Although these books are written for early readers, with simple stories that appeal to her interests, I have found that the leap from picture book to chapter book to be a steep one. Particularly when I am reading an un-illustrated segment, I have noticed that my daughter’s concentration wanes mid chapter and without a visual reference and in the absence of descriptions she has trouble keeping track of the secondary characters.
From the very first page you know that you are getting something different. Dixie O’Day is a very British book about a pair of well-mannered British chaps. Beneath the excitement of the great Didsworth to Dodsworth car race there are some very gentle lessons about taking care of your possessions, consideration for others, manners and doing good deeds.
In a world full of apps, technology and extra digital content it was a delight to watch my daughter interacting with the book in a much more traditional way- exploring the included character interviews, games and maps – these added extras have pulled us back to the book as much as the story itself.
The chapters were the perfect length to maintain a fidgeting child’s attention, but long enough to that my daughter didn’t feel short changed at bedtime. The chapters each ended on a gripping cliff hanger and on more than one occasion I gave in (gleefully*) to my daughters pleas of just one more chapter.
In my experience the illustrations in similar books are usually black and white. While the illustrations in Dixie O’Day benefit from the edition of just red, pink and grey, the use of different retro prints add to the overall texture of the pictures and makes the overall book feel as if a much larger colour palate has been used.
I loved the retro 1940-1950’s styling. Everything from the illustrations themselves, the language use, even the compact size of the book, all nod to a past era. Although I was born long after the mimiced era, everything about the book made me feel nostalgic for my own childhood. Saturday mornings watching wacky races on the television, rummaging in charity shops for very British books about adventures, midnight feasts and lessons in morality.
Verdict: With it’s fast paced and exciting chapters and vibrant illustrations on every page Dixy O’Day is the perfect bridge between the chapter books my daughter craves and the picture books we already love.
* another step closer to creating a mini bibliophile
Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Bodley Head
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 128
Genre: Children’s, Humour
Age: Early reader
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book

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