For those of you not in the know, Slinky Malinki is the cat from the Hairy Maclary series of kids books. Lynley Dodd’s sing-song rhymes about a dog from Donaldson’s Dairy and all his friends and relations have amused generations of kiddies.
In this outing, Slinky Malinki (“a bothersome rascal, a pothersome pain”) climbs the Christmas tree: “He knotted the tinsel, and swatted the bell, he battered the baubles and trinkets as well.”
In the morning, the faceless, nameless family put the tree back together again – but where is the Christmas fairy for the top of the tree?
The secularisation of Christmas was one of the most striking parts of the tale for me – the tree features santas and reindeers, but the only Christian iconography I spotted were a couple of star and dove ornaments, and that’s a tenuous connection to what believers call the reason for the season. I’m no expert on kiddie literature, but it’s really nice to see a children’s Christmas book which doesn’t focus on a massive pile of presents, the alien joy of a white Christmas, or going away in a manger. Instead, Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Cracker focuses on the parts of Christmas children (and grown ups) are more likely to experience: the cat knocks over the tree, and everyone has fun putting it back up again. Lovely for religious folk and heathens alike.
The edition I read is a board book, which I understand is for smaller kiddies (disclaimer: I did not test this book on actual children; the testers I had roped in got chickenpox and I begged off our story-book-date because I’m a bad friend). But it looks like it could withstand chewing, and has a sparkly boarder around the edge of the cover which is a huge bonus at any age.
The pictures are of course lovely, full of movement and life. Dodd is obviously a cat lover – she’s captured Slinky Malinki trying to rip the guts out of a teddy bear perfectly. Aw, bless.
It’s my understanding that kiddie books have to be tolerable to adults as well as children – especially if they’re to be read aloud. An aunt of mine can still recite some drivel about tractors, which is both a fun party trick and a fairly good reason not to have children at all. That’s the downside of fun rhymes – they can turn into earworms as easily as a pop song. Thinking about this, all my kiddie books mysteriously disappeared about five minutes after I could read, something I’m suddenly no longer sure is a coincidence.
But Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers is a joy to read and perfect for the festive season. Buy a copy for all the little ones on your list and they’ll love you for it.