Hairy Maclary controversy: Entrepreneur calls for diversity in new books instead of criticizing classics

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Dr Helen Adam told Newshub while she is a big fan of Lynley Dodd, Hairy Maclary does not reflect our more diverse culture in which attitudes towards gender and cultural background have changed.

“It’s really important that today’s children also see books that reflect today’s world. Keep the classics but make sure the shelves are diverse and reflect different ways of being and different ways of live,” she said.

It’s a view supported by entrepreneur Nuwanthie Samarakone and The Period Place founder Danika Revell, who told AM on Tuesday that they both love Hairy Maclary, but it’s also important to include more diverse books.

Samarakone said the study raises some really interesting questions.

“The points are really worth it,” she said. “My take on this, though, is to not just dive into some of these wonderful books, leave them as they are, but move forward with real thinking about inclusivity.”

Revell agreed, saying there is a range of fantastic books parents can add to their children’s libraries.

She said she read Hairy Maclary to her sons almost every day, but also made a conscious effort to include more inclusive books as well.

“I have… two little boys and I’ve made a conscious effort to buy books that have a female lead character because I want to try to have more diversity in the books,” she said.

“And I found that… the animal characters always seem to be guys, so I just change the name or change the pronoun or I ask – we were talking about Donaldson’s dairy – and I asked, ‘Whose is it? Donaldson’s Dairy? Is it Mr. Donaldson or is it Mrs. Donaldson?”

Meanwhile, AM host Ryan Bridge joked that the Hairy Maclary books may actually be sexist towards men due to their portrayal of Slinky Malinki the thief cat.

“There are]huge gender stereotypes here with him being male,” Bridge joked. “Obviously that implies that only men are thieves and I’m horrified by that.”

Earlier on the show, AM host Melissa Chan-Green and newsreader Nicky Styris also shared their take on the book.

“You can find flaws in anything if you read it and look hard enough,” Styris said. “I think sometimes we think too much. Just let the kids be kids, let the parents read to their kids.”

Chan-Green agreed, saying she liked the book.

“It seems crazy that anyone has a problem with Hairy Maclary, it’s a lovely rhyme book that kids have a lot of fun with.”

But she also pointed out that Dr. Adam was not saying the book could no longer be read.

“In [Dr Adam’s] defense, and playing devil’s advocate a bit here, because if you think about all the amazing books that we have now, these modern books, a lot of them are more reflective of our diverse society,” she said .

“I think what she’s saying is that as parents we tend to go to your classics and read the old books that we love, but there are a lot of new modern books that really reflect our society and we should make sure that we are reading a wide range so that we are also exposing our children to new thinking, new books and new messages,” Chan-Green said.

Dame Lynley hit back at the weekend critics, suggesting it was “crazy” and due to political correctness.

She was asked about the study during an interview with RNZ on Saturday.

“What stereotypes are they talking about? she asked, to which RNZ host Kim Hill replied, “male and female.”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Dame Lynley told RNZ. “I actually have a wife…I’m just looking at the pile of books I have on the table right now…I have Susie Fogg [A Dragon In a Wagon] and also, you have to remember that female dogs have certain times when they’re not supposed to gallop anyway,” she added.

“Isn’t it crazy, people are just too politically correct,” Dame Lynley concluded.

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