Out of the gate and off for an honorary doctorate...

27 October 2009
One of New Zealand's best known children's authors will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Waikato.

Tauranga-based, internationally acclaimed Dame Lynley Dodd has sold more than nine million books during her career and has written 32 books in total. She'll receive her honorary doctorate at a special ceremony at Mills Reef Winery on November 11.

"It's a great honour to present this award to a person who through her writing and illustrating has become a household name," says University Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford. "I suspect any home that has children living in it or visiting will have one of Dame Lynley's books."

My Cat likes to Hide in Boxes, co-written with Eve Sutton was Dame Lynley's first success, the Nickle Nackle Tree written and illustrated by Dame Lynley was next, and not too long after came Hairy Maclary. The scrappy dog from Donaldson's Dairy was the catalyst for 18 more in the 'Hairy' series.

Dame Lynley completes one book a year, sometimes writing up to 25 drafts of the text before beginning her water colour illustrations. Her books, designed to be read out loud and rolled around on the tongue, are studied at university in language and literacy papers.

"Her work is a joy to read," says Prof Crawford. "You don’t know you're covering numerous aspects of language, from sound patterning to nuclear tones and allophones. They are filled with humour and joy and have a level of chaos that children can easily relate to. Dame Lynley Dodd has made a huge contribution to New Zealand literature and continues to do so."

Dame Lynley says the feedback she receives for her work is what keeps her going. "All of us in the business of writing and illustrating for children know that feedback from the 'consumers' is vital, so to receive a letter from a child saying 'Your books rock...' is to make all the hard slog at desk and easel worthwhile.

"And when academic recognition comes unexpectedly in the form of an honorary doctorate, one tends to feel that all one's Christmases have come at once! It's both humbling and deeply gratifying to receive such a vote of confidence in one's work," she says.

Dame Lynley Dodd has won at least 10 literary awards, was awarded the Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002 and this year made the decision to accept the title of Dame.

Meanwhile, children at primary schools in the Tauranga region have been taking part in a competition to create a 'friend' for Hairy Maclary with a Tauranga focus.

Tauranga libraries are also getting into the spirit, with readings of Dame Lynley's books from November 2, displays of her books, and showcasing pictures and profiles from the competition at all four libraries in the area – Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Greerton and Papamoa.

Competition winners will receive signed copies of Dame Lynley's books from her at a ceremony in the Tauranga Central Library on November 6, and the three prize winners and their parents will also be invited to the conferral of Dame Lynley's University of Waikato Honorary Doctorate on November 11.