Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane – Tunnock’s tea cake anyone?

Hay Festival saw some pretty mean rain clouds but in amongst the drizzle, Moontrug spotted a flash of red. Could it be a 1961 Vintage Ford Zodiac Convertible ‘Miniature’ zooming through the mud? Indeed it was. Dixie O’Day, the main character in Clara Vulliamy and Shirley Hughes’ Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane, (5-8 years) had arrived…

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Just as Dixie is the driver in the book and Percy the map reader, so Vulliamy is the illustrator and her mother, Shirley Hughes, writes the words. And possibly one of the funniest bits of Vulliamy’s talk at Hay was when she showed us some of her family photographs and there was one of a scene with a Christmas tree, tinsel, wrapped presents and snow, and Vulliamy asked the children: ‘Can anyone tell me what day of the year this photo was taken on?’ A hand shot straight up and a little boy said: ‘Friday.’ And THAT is why I think kids are so cool…

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Vulliamy revealed where the idea for her Dixie O’Day books had come from: ‘When I was little I used to love watching a TV programme called Whacky Races and so I invented my own whacky race from Didsworth to Dodsworth for Dixie and Percy.’ Vulliamy then showed us a fabulous page of illustrations detailing the other racers: goats driving a rocket, cows steering a side car, mice pulling a cheese trailer, otters flopping about in a bath tub car – the imaginative scope was awesome and if Moontrug had a whacky car she’d be cruising around in a cloud pedalled by moon sylphs.

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Somehow Vulliamy managed to read from her book AND draw the scene at the same time (luckily she wasn’t arrested for draw-driving) – Moontrug particularly enjoyed Vulliamy’s made up word THWONK and was amazed that what began simply as a pair of sunglasses turned into Lowella in her pink sports car… And bravo, Vulliamy, for scribbling all over Lowella in permanent marker when she didn’t stop to help Dixie and Percy with their smoking car. Vulliamy let us peek inside Dixie and Percy’s hamper (think roast dinners, baked beans, a thermos, Tunnock’s teacakes, Gin and Tonics, chocolate rice pudding and kitkats) and by the end of the talk Moontrug felt super hungry, both for Tunnock’s tea cakes AND a desire to read the Dixie O’Day books right away…

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