Friday, October 08, 2010
THE WONKY DONKEY CELEBRATES FIRST BIRTHDAY AND PUBLISHER PRODUCES A FOLLOW-UP
The buzz of anticipation around the publication of Willbee the Bumblebee, with singer and writer Craig Smith’s catchy song complemented by Katz Cowley’s cheeky illustrations, was feverish leading up to its release, with major retailers placing large orders with Scholastic.
Now with over 250,000 copies in print worldwide, The Wonky Donkey won the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Choice and Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice awards, is a platinum bestseller in New Zealand and is currently the number 1 bestselling children’s book in Australia.
I have to say that our whole family was pretty in-awe of your seamless performance of this song (which you're probably sick of singing); it's a bit of a light-hearted challenge in our house to see who can keep up with you and keep everything in order! I thought I had it pretty sussed, and have to admit I was feeling a bit smug about it too.
You may have been here, or you may have heard of the earthquake we experienced in Christchurch recently, which is the real reason for my e-mail.
I woke to the initial rumble, much like a lot of people did that morning, just before the shaking started. Our three month old twins Jack and Sam were in our room and I scooped them up before we were all thrown to the floor as the house shook violently. The lights went out, and I could see that my partner Thomas was still being thrown around as he tried to get out of our room and into Angus's; he couldn't even get out the door initially, he kept getting sucker-punched by the drawers and to be honest, I thought we were all going to die, with little Angus, who has just turned two, in the other room all by himself.
Memory fails me at this point, but resumes with us all gathered in the hallway, stunned and dry-mouthed while inanimate objects sprang to life in the dark around us.
As I sat on the floor with Jack and Sam in my arms, and somewhere in the pitch black Thomas sat with Angus. A little voice floated across to me "Mummy.....What's happening?"
I steeled myself to let my preschool-teacher self take the reigns. "Wow Angus, it's pretty cool huh?"(In my most cheerful voice, although I was... ok let's be real about this.... absolutely shitting myself). "The ground is shaking, this is called an earthquake! Silly old ground, shaking all around! Hey! I've got an idea! Do you want to sing a song?"
Relative silence. Then "Hmmmmm."
"Ok honey, what do you want to sing?" Silence again. Then....
"Knees and nose." (Heads, shoulders knees and toes). Then...
"No Mummy, not knees and nose, sing Wonky Donkey, Mummy."
I tried, I really did, but let's just say I no longer feel smug about my abilities in that department. I'll leave it to the expert.
I share this story with you not to bleat out my earthquake experience; I tell you because had I written this song, I would want to know how important it has become to one of its little listeners, and how it helped make somebody's scary experience a little easier.
Liz Van Halewyn
Author Craig Smith has just retuirned froma promotional tour for The Wonky Donkey in Australia,. here are some of the comments made in the media there:
THE WONKY DONKEY IN AUSTRALIA
SUNDAY EXAMINER, TASMANIA
By Matt Maloney
Mr Smith is best known for his top-selling children’s book The Wonky Donkey, which has sold 40,000 copies in Australia in the past 10 months.
The popular performer will appear at the Devonport Library tomorrow from 2pm for a free concert for the federal government’s Get Reading initiative – a month-long promotion designed to encourage more children and adults to pick up a book.
By Meryl Naidoo
"It's not a standard story and I think that's what has got children and adults excited," he said. "The mix of pictures, music and text creates an experience that gets children excited to read."
BURNIE ADOCATE, TASMANIA
By Sonia Byrnes
Owner of Devonport Bookshop Tim Gott said Wonky Donkey started out as a relative unknown on the shelves but through word of mouth the story of a fleabitten, stinky, winky, one-eyed donkey has almost become a cult classic. "Early childhood centres and primary schools picked it up and children began demanding it” he said.
NORTHERN TERRITORY NEWS, DARWIN
The New Zealander, who described himself as “more of a wobble than a Wiggle”, played to kids at Darwin City Library yesterday.
Publisher Scholastic said the book had already sold 50,000 copies, put it behind only Mem Fox’s Where is the Green Sheep?” and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
By Matt Buchanan and Jacqueline Maley
A hairy cross between Billy Connolly and the giant from Harry Potter, the author performed for his fans at the Children's Hospital at Westmead yesterday."' kind of feel like an impostor as an author sometimes," he said. "I am more of a musician. But I appreciate that kids are aural learners and I enjoy performing for them."
By Judith Kerr
“We learned the song at school but it is really great to sing it in the library with the writer,” said five-year-old Carlos Johnston, from St Rita’s Catholic Primary School.
GET READING FUNCTION, DEVONPORT, TASMANIA
By Anne Gott
"You will be pleased to know that the event also generated great interest in Willbee the Bumblebee as we sold out of the stock we had on the day and took a lot of orders which have since been filled -as well as ongoing strong sales!”
HILLS SHIRE TIMES, SYDNEY
That Wonky Donkey's story by NewZealand singer and children's author Craig Smith has become a best-selling children'sbook and has even exceeded sales from the Twilight series.
So popular is this wonky three-leggeddonkey, that Smith made a special trip to the Apple store at Castle Towers last weekto tell young readers all about himself.
"When I was going to school I would havebeen the least likely student my teachers would have thought would turn into a bestselling children's author," he said.
MELTON LEADER, MELBOURNE
This week Mr Smith visited Bacchus Marsh, singing Wonky Donkey and other songs to children at Collins Booksellers. Mr Smith said it took a while to get used to being called a children'sauthor.
"I used to be in sales and marketing but I gave it up to follow my heart," he said. "I was performing for kids for years before it was recognised that my songs could be turned into books, it's an added string to my bow.
THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN
By William Yeoman
… It is my contention that Smith’s gentle method of instruction for children in the 3-8 age group, utilizing as it does a mixture of live performance, illuminated text, recordings, videos and computer applications, not only draws on the practices of the troubadours, minnesingers and the bards of old; more specifically it reintroduces some of the key concepts of a humanist education as exemplified in the ayres of Dowland, Morley, Campion et al.