We are saddened to hear of the passing on Friday 9 July of a lifelong advocate and supporter of children’s literature, Betty Gilderdale, just days short of her 98th birthday.
Generations of children know Betty as the author of the much-loved series of five Little Yellow Digger picture books, which she created alongside her artist husband, Alan Gilderdale. With over half a million Little Yellow Digger books in print, the original picture book stands out as one of New Zealand’s all-time bestselling children’s picture books, a wonderful legacy to leave to the world of children’s publishing. It is a legacy that is being continued by their son Peter, who has taken up the mantle of writing new books in the series.
Betty and Alan emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1967, bringing their young family with them. From 1969 to 1985 Betty taught at North Shore Teachers’ Training College (later Auckland College of Education), then in Auckland University’s Department of Continuing Education until 1985.
In addition to her children’s books, Betty authored a number of adult non-fiction titles, including A Sea Change, a comprehensive survey of New Zealand fiction for young people over the 145 years from 1833 to 1978. Betty also wrote acclaimed biographies of Lady Barker (published 2009) and Margaret Mahy (2013). Betty’s own autobiography My Life in Two Halves was published in 2012.