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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers by Lynley Dodd

‘Oh FOOZLE! What a shattering shame …’

Slinky Malinki, the mischievous cat whose antics have delighted Kiwi kids for more than 30 years, is up to his usual tricks: this time, mauling the family’s lovingly decorated Christmas tree and hiding the fairy under the rug.

Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers was first published in 2006 and has been released this year in a special board-book edition, making it tough enough to withstand little book-lovers’ fingers and teeth – which is just as well, because it’s guaranteed to be reread a lot.

As always, Dodd’s language is playful and inventive. Even as a grown-up reader (and even on the hundredth repetition), it’s a delight to wrap your mouth around her words: ‘a lollipop drop’, ‘a pothersome pain’, ‘a smothery hug’, ‘a wobble of bauble’, and the forementioned ‘FOOZLE!’, my new favourite curse.

Dodd consistently does something that very few picture-book writers manage, which is to strip the storyline right back to a level of simplicity that’s difficult for an adult brain to accept. Case in point: try describing the plot of Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy to someone who’s never read it before. There’s nothing to it, but it’s that very simplicity that has made it an enduring classic. Likewise, in Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers, one minor domestic drama and one strong punchline are all that’s needed.

With the illustrations, too, Dodd is bold enough to repeat the same Christmas-tree scene on every single page, knowing that readers’ interests will be held by the little details and by the life that seems to vibrate off Slinky Malinki as he stalks and swipes and springs around the page.

My 20-month-old test audience has already fallen in love with the rapscallion cat; this book will be a mainstay of the Christmas season and, no doubt, beyond.

Reviewer: India Lopez

Puffin, $19.99


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