Home-grown books a hit with Kiwi kids

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Harry Potter topples Hunger Games from the top of the book charts but New Zealand authors edge out some world classics.

Lynley Dodd's classic Hairy Maclary was fifth on the kids' book charts.
Lynley Dodd's classic Hairy Maclary was fifth on the kids' book charts.

Wizards and witches, vampires and the tale of a one-eyed donkey are what Kiwi children love to read about.

The annual Whitcoulls Kids' Top 50 books chart is released today, showing what New Zealand kids are picking up from the bookshelves.

The Harry Potter series is at the top of the list; bumping Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series - which was rated number one last year - to second place.

Three New Zealand authors made the top 11, with Dame Lynley Dodd's classic Hairy Maclary in fifth place, Mark Sommerset's Baa Baa Smart Sheep in ninth and Craig Smith's The Wonky Donkey at number 11.

Smith, whose books are all songs as well, said mixing reading with music was a great way to get kids excited about books.

"The books are quirky and they're fun. The fact that they've got the music with them helps as well. Some kids hear better than they read to learn.

Because the song is a book as well, they can actually pick up the book and learn twice as fast. It gets kids to read.

"My books are more about literacy rather than literature. It's all about fun ... and getting kids to pick up the books in the first place."

Smith's catchy country tune and funny rhymes have been a hit with children and their parents alike, since The Wonky Donkey and CD were released in 2009.

Part of the rhyme goes: "Spunky, hanky-panky, cranky, stinky dinky, lanky, honky-tonky, winky wonky donkey."

Many world classics feature in the Top 50 list including J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia and six books by the legendary Roald Dahl.

Other Kiwi books on the list are Do Your Ears Hang Low?, The Wheels on the Bus and I Need a New Bum.

Dawn McMillan, author of I Need a New Bum, said children and parents loved to have a laugh and that was probably why it had done so well.

"I think kids like something that's a bit on the edge and it gives them a laugh. Boys particularly love anything to do with bums and farts and bottoms. I don't just write that sort of thing, of course. But it's very funny when I get to."

Whitcoulls book manager Joan Mackenzie said it was exciting to see New Zealand children picking up home-grown books.
Whitcoulls book manager Joan Mackenzie said it was exciting to see New Zealand children picking up home-grown books.

Whitcoulls book manager Joan Mackenzie said it was exciting to see New Zealand children picking up home-grown books. "Dame Lynley Dodd is ever popular and it's not surprising to see Hairy Maclary firmly ensconced at number five.

"The list tells us the true classics are always in vogue, but books that reflect back to readers' landscapes, places and essentially Kiwi things that they experience every day are also important."

- NZ Herald

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