Children's book author Alistair McIntyre knows why his book Doug the Digger is so popular with young readers, and says you only have to "look at a busy sandpit" to see how children relate to his love of machinery.

The writer, also known as "Mr Mac", is a role model for Duffy Books in Schools which provides free books to more than 100,000 New Zealand children, three times a year.

McIntyre visited 12 schools in the Whanganui region during the last two weeks to present the free books and share his own story with the children.

At Keith St School he received a warm reception and entertained the children with the tale of how he came to write Doug the Digger.


"When I was 5, I loved nothing better than trucks, diggers and bulldozers," he said. Having a father who was a civil engineer allowed young McIntyre to visit work sites and watch the machinery he loved in action.

"I ran around putting wooden pegs in the ground and was told to listen, look, learn and not tutu with anything."

McIntyre said he couldn't wait to leave school at age 15, and soon found work doing what he loved - driving machinery. "By the time I was 17, I had two businesses of my own and I saved up to buy a refrigerator truck for delivering pet food," he said.

Everything changed when McIntyre was 25 and suffered a serious injury at work, and he was unable to continue doing the work he loved. "I had a dream about writing a book and I knew the idea was good, but writing was not one of my strengths," he said.

The book was published in 2003 after McIntyre went back to school for literacy lessons. He said he now regrets that he did not work harder the first time around. "I had days off and I didn't apply myself.

"You should always listen to your teachers and be proud of your work."

McIntyre is one of a number of role models who travel New Zealand presenting Duffy Books, but his presentation is unique. He arrives in a big truck, and gives children rides and safety lessons in the digger he calls "Kerri-Ann".

The Alan Duff Charitable Foundation Duffy Books in Homes is a literacy programme aimed at breaking the cycle of booklessness among children at low-decile schools.