Saturday, 24 February 2007

Red Riding Hood and graffiti

This is the only book in my vast collection that I originally owned as a child and has stuck with me throughout. If you look closely you will see that Ms Riding Hood has a pair of glasses and a light beard. This is the work of my brother and, even today - 35 years later - just looking at it produces a primative urge in me to squeal and tell my mother.

This books is special to me too because I actually own the original artwork of the picture it shows. And this was the first Ladybird Book illustrated by Harry Wingfield, perhaps the most famous of all the Ladybird artists. In an interview a couple of years before he died he said that he put his heart and soul into this book, to be sure that he got regular work from Ladybird. It paid off; he became the favoured illustrator for the next couple of decades.

At the time my squealing must have paid off. My brother's additions to the artwork got him into a lot of trouble. Books were special in our house and to be treated with respect. I think times have changed rather, in this respect. It is very common to find vandalised, scribbled on copies of the more modern Ladybird Books, but the chances are that the very old ones will be in lovely condition. When they were first issued in 1940 they cost 2 shillings and 6d. This was war time and a time of paper-shortages - and a brand new book must have been a real treat to be treasured. The price of Ladybird Books stayed exactly the same for the next 30 years - and even today they only cost £2.00 - and their prizeworthiness has of course declined in step.

Would today's little sister squeal and make a fuss?

Tuesday, 6 February 2007


'Jane' of the Peter and Jane reading scheme books was my heroine. She is the same age as me - but was never like me as a child. She always looked so neat and trim, with here little white frock and yellow cardigan. Sometimes, like here, she scrubbed up nicely and wore a party frock. And she was always getting bought dolls - and they always looked crisp and new. Her dolls never had ratty, matted hair and bald patches from botched attempts at hairdressing. Her own hair never had sticky-up bits like mine. She never wore thick tights which wrinkled around her ankles.

Oh the magic of unwrapping Christmas presents at this age. This picture sums up my first recollection of envy!