Slinky Malinki, Early Bird
by Lynley Dodd (Puffin Books 2014)
New Zealand writer Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary is one of my absolute favourite books – for rhythm, rhymes that make you laugh, and names that make you laugh even more.
Instead of lots of eccentric dogs, Slinky Malinki follows one single black cat and his* (very familiar) morning attempts to wake everyone in the household and then claim the comfiest bed. The bouncy rhythms and perfect rhymes of Hairy Maclary are here, but far fewer words: a shorter, simpler story. Much more suitable for a baby board book.
There are several books about Slinky Malinki and this is the latest, first out in larger format in 2012.
All the action takes place in a house, mostly in bedrooms, so there’s limited and recognisable stuff to talk about on the page, and always Slinky himself to spot, sometimes just a bit of him peering round the edge of a door or a curtain. He bounces like a ball, plays hide and seek, sings yowly songs, and sits on heads, until everyone is awake – all (fairly) understandable for a small child.
I partly chose Slinky Malinki, Early Bird because there’s a very similar-looking black cat in the household of the baby I’m finding these books for. It is feeling a bit displaced at the moment, a sort of pet/sibling rivalry at being shut out of the bedroom at night and having someone new take all the attention. But when the baby is old enough to notice the cat, this book will come into its own.
*Yes, Slinky is male. Yet another boy animal as lead character in a children’s book. Ho hum. But you could subvert the whole thing and read it out loud as ‘she’ and ‘her’ instead.