When my daughter was little Shirley Hughes’s Alfie and Annie Rose stories were her absolute favourites. She was enchanted by the adorable illustrations and sweet stories and was beside herself with excitement when she won a compendium of the Alfie books in a Waterstones competition.
Shirley’s daughter, Clara Vulliamy, is a successful author and illustrator too and the pair have now published their very first collaboration. Clara says that it was wonderful to sit at the kitchen table with her mother, sharing ideas and reading extracts aloud. I can’t think why they haven’t teamed up before because Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane is a delightful book.
Aimed at independent readers aged six to eight, the book is the first of a series starring two friends – Dixie O’Day and his sidekick Percy. Daring Dixie loves custard creams, watching cookery programmes and driving his sports car to the seaside with Percy. Or as happens in this book, competing in a motoring challenge against arch-enemy Lou-Ella (complete with a natty check motoring hat).
One of the mother and daughter duo’s cleverest ideas is to relate the story in seven bite-sized chapters – one for every night of the week. Not only that, there’s lots of extra material, like maps, Q & As, the authors’ likes and dislikes and a list of games to play on car journeys (reading about I-Spy and the number plate game took me right back to my dad driving the family Volvo to Devon for holidays).
With Clara’s slightly retro drawings and the tale’s chic black, white and red cover, there’s something sweetly old fashioned about this book, but that’s all part of its charm. I reckon parents and children will love it.
Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Highes & Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head, £8.99)