Tuesday, October 30, 2012


When veteran New Zealand children’s literature expert and author Betty Gilderdale came up with a story for her grandchildren about a digger in the next door garden getting stuck in the rain, she didn’t imagine that twenty years later she, her illustrator husband Alan and publisher Scholastic would be celebrating 20 years and over 400,000 copies of the iconic Little Yellow Digger series being in print.

The Takapuna Library hosted a yellow-themed celebration on Monday 26 October to mark the significant anniversary and the achievements of this classic book. Guests reminisced about the early days of the book, and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ as the Gilderdales cut a special Little Yellow Digger cake for the occasion.
First published in October 1992, The Little Yellow Digger quickly became a New Zealand favourite. A Booksellers NZ Platinum Bestseller, to date it has been reprinted 36 times in hardcover, paperback and board book form. In 2003 The Little Yellow Digger won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award, given to a book which has stood the test of time and is generally recognised as a successful, enduring children’s book. Four subsequent Little Yellow Digger titles also proved very popular.
This year the Little Yellow Digger even scored a starring role in the Mercury Energy and Starship Foundation ‘Good Energy’ television advertisements alongside other Kiwi treasures such as Buzzy Bee and Hairy MacLary.

Scholastic New Zealand Senior Editor Penny Scown (above), and former employee Christine Dale, both of whom were working with Scholastic when The Little Yellow Digger was contracted, spoke of the book’s enduring success. Penny also passed on congratulations from Graham Beattie, who was Scholastic New Zealand’s Managing Director and Publisher at the time.
At the celebration Betty Gilderdale shared that each story in the Little Yellow Digger series is dedicated to one of the Gilderdale grandchildren and is based on a real event. Betty also spoke of her professionally trained artist husband’s initial reluctance to illustrate a children’s book (especially one featuring a digger) and how he eventually gave in … and has been drawing diggers ever since!
As son Peter Gilderdale pointed out, it’s all the more remarkable since the series of five books have all been published since his parents retired!
To celebrate The Little Yellow Digger’s 20th birthday Scholastic New Zealand has released two new Little Yellow Digger titles: The Little Yellow Digger Activity Book and The Little Yellow Digger Trace ‘n’ Race box set, both out now. 
The happy author addresses the gathering.

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