Little Yellow Digger author Betty Gilderdale dies, aged 97

Betty Gilderdale, the author of the much-loved Little Yellow Digger series of children's books, has died just days before her 98th birthday.

Betty Gilderdale with a copy of The Little Yellow Digger. Source: Scholastic New Zealand

She died on Friday, July 9, Scholastic New Zealand announced today in a statement.

The "lifelong advocate and supporter of children’s literature" was the author of five Little Yellow Digger picture books, which she created alongside her husband, illustrator Alan Gilderdale.

The original Little Yellow Digger picture book is one of New Zealand's all-time bestselling children's picture books with over 500,000 copies in print.

The Gilderdales' son Peter has since taken up the mantle of writing new books in the series.

Betty and Alan emigrated with their young family from England to New Zealand in 1967. Betty taught at North Shore Teachers' Training College - later Auckland College of Education - followed by the University of Auckland's Department of Continuing Education, from 1969 to 1985.

Betty also authored a number of adult non-fiction titles, including A Sea Change, a comprehensive survey of New Zealand fiction for young people over 145 years from 1833 to 1978. She also wrote acclaimed biographies of Lady Barker, published in 2009, and Margaret Mahy in 2013. Her own autobiography, My Life in Two Halves, was published in 2012.