For a book dreamed up in rather a rush, Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy has proven an enduring New Zealand classic.
The beloved book's Tauranga-based author and illustrator, Dame Lynley Dodd, said "astonishment" was her reaction to news her 35-year-old title had been voted New Zealand's bestseller of the decade.
The NZ Bookshop competition analysed 10 years of Nielsen BookScan data and 1775 votes to pick Hairy Maclary as the clear favourite out of seven Kiwi novels, eight children's books and five non-fiction titles.
The book was published in 1983 by Puffin and has grown into an iconic series of 20 tales, with associated merchandise including everything from board games to nappies.
Dame Lynley said she had been working on a different book when her publisher discovered another author was releasing something that similar and said she "better think of something else in a hurry".
"I went to my ideas book and out fell a little scrap of paper I had written a few lines of Hairy Maclary on."
She knew it could be a good story but "never imagined he would ever go beyond one book".
"Hairy Maclary and his friends are 35 years old now, that's 245 years in canine terms - somewhat geriatric."
She believed they had endured, in part, because the stories were grounded in reality - things dogs and cats might actually do.
"They aren't flying rockets."
The author said she would never rule out writing another Hairy Maclary book and it was nice to see the books being enjoyed by generation after generation.
There could be no better illustration of New Zealand's enduring love of Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy than seeing it read to a group of schoolchildren at Tauranga Library yesterday.
They cheered and read along out loud as Penny Guy, a child and teen programme specialist with Tauranga City Libraries, read about Hairy Maclary and his gang of Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Muffin McLay, Bitzer Maloney, Schnitzel von Krumm and Scarface Claw.
Guy said the series was "very popular" and one of a select few the library had to replace every two years due to wear and tear, buying eight or 10 copies each time.
"Children love animals so the dogs and cats are a big drawcard. But what makes it so special is Lynley Dodd's exquisite sense of rhythm and rhyme."
She said many children's authors used rhymes but not all did it well.
"There is nothing worse than reading a book where the rhyming is bad.
"Hairy Maclary is an absolute joy to read."
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy
- First published in 1983 by Puffin
- Created, written and illustrated by Dame Lynley Dodd
- Issued 245 times in Tauranga in the last year
- Averaged 8.75 issues per copy in the year
- Replaced every two years due to wear and tear
- 8-10 copies purchased each time.
Sources: Tauranga Libraries, hairymaclary.com