Visiting Queenstown this week is a Scottish granny whose hysterical attempts to read a local author’s children’s book, captured on video, catapulted it to no.1 in the world.
In 2018, Brisbane-based Janice Clark, without her knowing, was filmed reading Craig Smith’s The Wonky Donkey to her three-month-old grandson, Archer.
Archer’s mum, Fiona, had bought the book for 20 cents at a recycling market, and, after reading it, decided to video her mum reading it aloud as she guessed it might cause a laughing fit.
After this duly happened, Fiona initially shared the video with her sewing group, before being asked to share it more widely.
The clip then became a viral sensation.
‘‘We lost count around 400 million views, and that was about a year ago so it’s maybe half-a-billion views across all the platforms,’’ Smith says.
Published nine years earlier, The Wonky Donkey had already sold a staggering one million copies in New Zealand and Australia.
In the year after the video was posted, however, it sold another three million copies worldwide, mostly in the United States and Britain.
For three giddy weeks, it was the world’s best-selling book across all genres, and remained no.1 kids’ book for months.
‘‘I still think it’s surreal,’’ Clark says.
Smith thinks the timing helped — ‘‘there was a lot of bad news going around, and here was a light, beautiful, candid moment of Janice and her infectious laugh’’.
In 2019, Smith’s publisher, Scholastic, flew Clark and her family to Auckland for the launch of his Wonky Donkey offshoot, The Dinky Donkey.
Smith, who’s also paid tribute to her with another book, The Grinny Granny Donkey, also planned shouting her to Queenstown till Covid got in the way.
He’s now hosting her at last, along with Archer, who’s now four-and-a-half, mum Fiona and Clark’s sister, Margaret, for a 10-day holiday here.
Clark says she’s loving Queenstown — ‘‘it’s absolutely gorgeous, I’m immigrating’’.
Smith says a video he made of Clark and her sister at Skyline is also hilarious.
Meanwhile, he confirms he and his illustrator Katz Cowley are working on another Wonky Donkey book for release next year.