THE TERRIBLE WILD GREY HAIRY THING
by Jean Chapman, illustrated by Vicky Kitanov - Scholastic Australia, 1986
ages 2 to 8 years / picture books + funny
This is a rollicking book—so much fun to read and so much fun to look at. The story is an adapted Danish folktale and the fabulous illustrations reflect that.
It’s the story of Goodie, a plump and obviously happy woman, who is making sausages to store up for her family – she makes hundreds of them and has to hang them from every nook and cranny.
Inevitably one of them slips behind a heavy tool chest and lies there forgotten until it starts to pong.
The family embarks on a hunt throughout the house to find the source of the great pong. When they finally discover the sausage, it's covered in dust and mould and looks alive! The terrified family call for backup and the whole town turns out.
In the end a black dog charges in and eats the terrible wild grey hairy thing. And the story ends on the line:
”It was only a little dog, but very hungry.”
This is such a deliciously jolly family—perhaps a little naive, but totally loveable. The pacing of the story is perfect: gentle and peaceful at first, maybe even serene, then frantic, then bold, and finally abrupt. It's such a great story to read aloud.
There are all sorts of completely relatable moments, such as when Goodie and the baby barricade themselves in the bedroom while Goodie’s husband runs for help. (This is relatable to me as I have more than once barricaded myself in my bedroom when some undesirable critter decided to come into our house!)
I especially love the way the community comes together to help a slightly silly family conquer a slightly silly fear—there’s a lovely lesson here about taking others seriously and helping even if it seems absurd.
Goodie and her family are brilliant examples of letting our imaginations and fears run away with us. And if you are slightly handicapped in the housekeeping department like me, this is also a feel-good story.
At last check, it wasn't on the bookseller sites, but it's sure to be in the library or may be available second hand—or check Book Depository in case it's back.