"I was walking down the road and I saw a donkey – hee haw. She was a dinky donkey."
Hang on a moment, that's not the opening line from one of the world's best-selling books… but it could be from the sequel which will be released later this year.
Global children's publisher Scholastic announced this week the worldwide release of a sequel to The Wonky Donkey, the bestselling picture book by touring musician/writer Craig Smith and illustrator Katz Cowley.
The Dinky Donkey, about the daughter of the original Wonky Donkey, will be published simultaneously in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom on November 1. She's described as a "blinky pinky winky-tinky funky dinky donkey" with the same irrepressible spirit as her three-legged father.
The sequel follows the worldwide success of the original book, first released in 2009. Inspired by a joke Smith overheard at the Te Anau Rugby Club – "what do you call a three-legged donkey?" – it sold around 750,000 copies in New Zealand and Australia.
But last year, a video of grandmother Janice Clark giggling while reading The Wonky Donkey to her grandson went viral, leading to international demand for the book.
Scholastic printed 2 million copies to meet global demand while Smith watched in disbelief as the book became – at least for a couple of weeks - the number one best-selling book, across all genre, in the world.
"To be the author of the number one book in the world… I mean, for a time there, it was ahead of Michelle Obama's autobiography and the Bob Woodward book about Donald Trump – and Woodward, he's the guy who wrote the stories about Watergate! I couldn't believe it; I still don't think it's sunk in. It really, really is pinch yourself stuff…"
Speaking from his home in Queenstown, Smith says he wrote The Dinky Donkey sequel before Clark propelled The Wonky Donkey to worldwide fame.
"Given the success it had already had, to not follow it up would have been a bit sad but I wanted to do it at the right time and make sure it was written in a way that was right rather than it just being pushed out in response to the success of the original," says Smith, who has written several other children's books.
He's also been busy touring, saying that, until recently, his life consisted of spending months on the road performing his song-stories and, back home, writing new material. Last year, he spent two months travelling in Asia performing on top of a lengthy tour around New Zealand and Australia.
Smith hopes to bring Clark from her home in Australia to New Zealand and hints that there may be a project they could work on together. Along with Clark's daughter, Fiona, the two are now Facebook friends and talk occasionally on Skype.
He says making children - and their grown-ups - laugh, makes him happier than he's ever been. The former marketing and salesman quit his day job in 2004 because he wanted to make music and write full-time. At first, he lived for a year in a van parked at the end of a friend's driveway, paying just $40 a week toward household expenses.
"Being in marketing was monetarily quite rewarding but it wasn't fulfilling me so I made my decision which was to do something that I loved and that was music," he says. "It saw me move, almost organically, into making music for kids and there's nothing like making kids laugh because it's a genuine laugh.
"Not only am I being creative, but I am encouraging kids to read books, or their parents and grandparents to read to them."
The phenomenal success of The Wonky Donkey hasn't altered his life too much. A self-confessed saver rather than spender, he already had a home and was doing the work he loves. Knowing he has a book completed and that pre-sales are well under way before its November release means he can take a break and spend some more time at home.
He'll spend it with his 4-year-old daughter, who he prefers not to name publically, saying she was partly responsible for The Dinky Donkey.
"It's a similar story but, of course, this donkey's a bit cuter."
Smith's daughter also helps to keep him grounded.
"It's a bit hard to get carried away with how well a book is doing when you've got a 4-year-old telling you she doesn't like the way you made her porridge for breakfast … or that she really wanted Weet-Bix and not porridge at all."