Saturday, 5 December 2009
How did that happen?
Anyway, this year's quiz, in the true spirit of Ladybird, is non-competetive. There are no prizes on offer - except the prize of the warm flush of triumph which accompanies the knowledge that you know your Griffle from your Gruffle - as they say.
12 questions in total. I hope you enjoy it - click the picture below to play it:
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
I was delighted to be sent this picture this week. Does it jog any memories?
The picture was posed for one of the illustations of classic Ladybird Book 'Toys and Games to Make' (first published in 1966). The child in the picture is the newphew of the artist, Robert Ayton.
Here's the picture he was posing for:
If you look closely in the black and white picture, behind young Rupert you'll see his little sister, Robert's niece. She also posed for this book - a picture of bubble-blowing innocence.
This book has very deep-rooted memories for me. I don't think there was a toy or game in there that we (my brother and I) didn't make, or try to make at some time in the late 1960s/early 70s. Life is full of disappointments; I don't think any of our finished products looked anything like Robert Ayton's enticing illustrations.
You could never be certain whether you were actually hearing your companion's voice via the string/cocoa tin or simply hearing it because he was 8 feet away from you. But I don't remember resenting the book for that.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Today is Martin Aitchison's 90th birthday. Martin started illustrating for Ladybird in the 1960s and was one of the main illustrators for over 25 years. He is one of only a couple of key players from Ladybird's mega-successful days in the 1960s who is still with us today. Even if his name isn't familar to you, there's a good chance that you'll recognise at least one of the pictures below - and this is just a small sample of around 100 titles that Martin illustrated for Ladybird.
Friday, 13 November 2009
So if you tend to use 'Google' to get to this blog or my www.ladybirdflyawayhome.com site - please take a moment to bookmark me, before I vanish!
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
I received this message last week:
"I am trying to find a book to buy written in ITA. I learned ITA at school from 1965 to about 1968. I think it must have been pretty new then because when I went up to the junior school, there were only 6 of us who read ITA. They had to split the class and write everthing twice, once in ITA and again in English"
Yes, it was a very odd period in British education - a really bold idea that was dominant for several years and then dropped rapidly from favour. Although I was born in 1964 so must be a bit younger than you, I managed to escape ITA, although my cousins (about 6 years younger than me and so learning to read in the early 70s, were taught using ITA and still blame it to this day for their problems with spelling! So that would span about a decade.
If you have no idea what ITA is - and many people look completely blank if I mention it - this picture above should give you an idea.
Ladybird were only following a widespread initiative in issuing books in the ITA alphabet; I remember most children's publishers doing the same.
As I say, I had always thought of ITA as an experiment of the early 1970s and considered that my cousins were 'hit' with ITA as a result of being that bit younger than me. But clearly this correspondent was a little older than me and she was taught to ITA. That must be the case, thinking about it, because some Ladybird books in ITA have dustwrappers - so earlier than 1965.
So what dictated the decision to adopt ITA? Why did some schools adopt it and others did not over quite a number of years? And why did it sink so quickly and almost without a trace? If anyone knows, do get in touch.
Since writing the above I've learnt quite a lot more about ITA but the comments on this post are, I think, a really valuable resource for anyone reasearching this topic so please keep them coming.
Here are a couple of links with more information:
Monday, 26 October 2009
Strangely enough, this week I've had two separate questions emailed to me about the Key Word Reader series in Gaelic. The first writer concerned reading schemes in general and asked:
"Janet and John were very English children; they
spoke very proper English, which is fine for teaching English language.
However, the language and the culture are so closely linked that the culture
also ended up being taught. Were there, or are there now any early readers
of this sort for Scottish children, set in Scotland and using the Scots
language, or at least English in a Scots setting?"
'The reality of the prose of Peter and Jane or Janet and John is that (apart from being the almost inevitable consequence of trying to build dialogue using - initially - on 12 key words) it is tied up with 1950s/60s notions of education and class - but not really of geography. The fact is that the childhood depiction of these children would have had much more in common with a privately educated middle-class child in Edinburgh than with a working class English child in Bradford or Portsmouth. The 'culture' represented is not Scottish, Welsh or English - but some 1950s concept of what, as you say, was considered 'proper'. Indeed it might suprise you to know that Janet and John who you call "very English children" are in fact American! The books were copyrighted from 1940s American books and simply reprinted in this country'.
Peter and Jane, on the other hand, were 'English', but you only have to read the article by the very English Libby Purves to see how 'posh' reading-scheme children inhabiting their rosy, idealised suburban worlds push all sorts of people's buttons - you certainly don't need to be Scottish to resent them!
Then of course it's easy to measure the Peter and Jane books with a contemporary yardstick (a metre stick?)and to forget their real context. To repeat an excellent observation made by journalist Cressida Connoly, in their time Peter and Jane were actually ...
"...an antidote to the privileged country children of popular literature, such as Swallows and Amazons or the Famous Five. Ladybird children didn't go to boarding school; they went to the local newsagent's on their bicycles. The childhood of Ladybirds was egalitarian and unsnobbish, depicting suburbia as the kind of utopia that town planners always intended it to be."
In an interview shortly before his death, artist Harry Wingfield, speaking of the criticism of the Key Word reading scheme said:
"no kids want to be dustbin kids, you can’t illustrate the dustbin kids all the time....I was illustrating what the average council family would like to be regarded as they were, but of course you can’t illustrate disadvantaged kids all the time, it’s not what your business is doing... you’ve got to sell to the parent, you’re not selling to the five year old or the three year old, you’re selling to the parent or the grandparent, who’s trying to please these children or teach them and that’s the recognised way of doing things. But you’ve got to make them nice to look at".
The second email question I received was a simple request for more information about Peter and Jane in Gaelic - and I wasn't able to be much help. I have a complete set of the Key Word series in Welsh (24 books - I don't think any 'c' books were published) and quite a few swaps. But I have only two books in Gaelic, so I don't think they can have been in print for long.
Besides, it seems to me to be a rather odd thing to do, to devise a whole reading scheme based on meticulous study of the 'key words' used of one particular language - and then to translate it into another completely different language! I wonder how comfortable William Murray was with this?
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
In this weekend's Guardian, Lucy Mangan writes a short piece that reveals the soul of a Ladybird Book lover.
If you missed the article, you'll find it here:
I know, I know - it sounds like a case of typical Ladybird stereotyping, but the description of the books she remembers fondly, as opposed to those remembered by 'Tory Boy' fit the usual pattern. In my experience, the men who visit my website are looking for the History, Achievement, Science or Nature books. The women are looking for the fiction they fondly remember, preferably involving pretty princesses and nice ball gowns. I know, I know! But that's how it seems to BE.
Perhaps the time has come to put 'stereotype' to the test. I know from my stats counter that a lot of people read this blog; but the Ladybird Book lover is a timid creature who prefers to lurk in the background rather than leave comments. But this is your chance to vote on this frankly crucial issue. Rest assured that your response is anonymous.
If you are male, vote here:
If you are female, vote here:
Unless you are male or female, I'm afraid I have no poll for you; this is Ladybird land, afterall.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
I don't know if more people are interested in old Ladybird Books, but more people seem to be interested in them as money making collectables.
Although I've been getting fewer enquiries about buying books recently, I have had many more enquiries from people wanting to sell them. Perhaps this is a sign of (relatively) hard times, or perhaps programmes like the recent edition of 'Flog It!' and the interview with Kathie Layfield have led people to believe that even fairly modern books such as the Read it Yourself series 777 are valuable to collectors.
Of course, from the 1960s onwards, Ladybird was very well established as a publisher of children's books - and these books were to be found in every school, Sunday School and many homes around the country. They were published in vast numbers, so with very few exceptions, (such as the elusive 'Indira Ghandi', 'Discovering Alton Towers' or some of the original 606d series) books published after the 1960s are not hard to track down and the words 'First Edition' printed in a laminated 1980s book are meaningless in terms of value.
But it's very nice to see that the genuinely scarce titles from the 1940s and 1950s can still command a high price on eBay. Of course, it would be less 'nice to see' this price if I hadn't completed my own collection years ago. But for you determined collectors without lots of money to throw at the really rare books you lack - it's not getting easier, so I salute you.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
But isn't it quintessentially Ladybird? How many different classic Ladybird books can you see echoed in this clip? Going to School, Uncle Mac, Tootles the Taxi, Helping at Home and even the 1960s version of Peter and Jane ...
Monday, 31 August 2009
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Back in June I mentioned having a couple of letters from L du Garde Peach, writer of the History series, written in the early 1970s to his illustrator, John Kenney.
By popular demand - both of you :) - here are more details.
First the background.
A year or two ago, someone contacted me who was a close family friend of artist John Kenney (best known for illustrating some of the original Thomas the Tank Engine books, Tootles the Taxi and the History books of series 561) . This person asked my advice about some books that he owned. Having given this advice as best I could, I asked if he could provide more information about Kenney so that I could make a biography for my website. He agreed, we met up and the page was written. A year or two pass.
I understand Kenney's wife died quite recently and when the house was being cleared, this friend saw the letters and wondered if they would be of interest to me. Very kindly he sent them to me.
I was not exaggerating when I said that L du G's prose is complex and whimsical. Here's a taster of an opening paragraph:
It is exactly - or as that gentle voice (not the one which breathed o'er Eden) out of the vague unknown would say "at the third stroke it will be twenty-three days, six hours, and thirty seconds precisely" since I received your letter of June 15th from the hand of the most, if not the only reliable link in the postal chain, Clarry the Post: the weather being fine, the wind NW, the barometer steady and the temperature 53 F. The note in my diary - apart from the meteorrol - damn it! - meteroloical details above, states that I was working on the "Ladybird" book about that dull and distressingly pious old party Elizabeth Fry".
L du G goes on to say that he had also just finished with "Henry II and that turbulent priest with whom you will no doubt deal from your angle in due course" and reminds him that Henry was reputed to be very tall. In fact, Kenney was to illustrate neither Henry II nor Elizabeth Fry - he died the following year, at the age of 61).
His thoughts ramble in similarly entertaining but tortuous prose for some paragraphs before coming to the apparent main reason for writing "to congratulate you on the much over-due upsurge in the American market for the works of the English painter, John Kenney". This leads him to fret about the "commercial exploiters of the work of needy painters" and to marvel at what a bargain is to be had by those who can get such wonderful pieces of art for just 15p - then the cost of a Ladybird Book.
He then talks about The Pilgrim Fathers, which Kenney appears to have been in the process of illustrating:
"you are quite right about the "Thanksgiving" picture - though what anyone now living in the USA has to give thanks for, is one of those sixty-four thousand dollar questions to which - as far as I know - there is no convincing answer. And I applaud your reason - or was it a sub-reason - that the early pilgrims praying in the fields might have looked like "The Angelus"."
He discusses a future meeting to discuss matters 'over the table'- although I'm not sure which table this would be as I understand that he was not one of the group of writers/illustrators who would plan their work at the house of Douglas Keen). Towards the end of the letter he compares himself to Shakespeare's Lear - and the end of the letter is a very dense stream on consciousness that takes him from Lear's daughers to Cassandra and Clytaemnestra to the "dozens of young men" who were currently installing heaters in his house!
The second letter, written two months later, is shorter and deals with his concern at hearing that Kenney was ill. He again expresses his dislike of Elizabeth Fry - his chief grievance being, apparently that she was "not one of your more luscious glamour girls ever" and concern that "The Pilgrim Mothers" would be little better!
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
A fairly random and very nicely made image gallery of odd classic Ladybird Books - presumably from the creator's own collection. Nice because it gives you a peek inside the books - and the pictures s/he (now why do I think this is a 'he'?) has chosen from each book have been selected with loving care. (To visit this 'gallery' click on the image above, not the one below)
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Navigation around the site is unconventional - I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't more things Ladybird than I've uncovered. My favourite part so far is the 'feature' on The Nurse, which allows you to click around and zoom in the images:
If there's more that I've missed, let me know.
Austalian Nicole has started a new project intending to catalogue as many different variations on Ladybird Book covers as she is able to. This is certainly a project to keep an eye on especially if you are interested in the different styles of Ladybird cover and Foreign language Ladybird Books.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
The BBC are making a series of 4 programmes, hosted by Kirsty Young I think, exploring aspects of social change through children's books - or something like that.
Anyway, I was contacted by one of the programme team who had come across my website and had noted my article on the changes of family roles depicted in the original and revised versions of Peter and Jane.
After asking for my thoughts on father figures in Ladybird Books, I was asked if the BBC could borrow some of the books that show pictures like those in the article. So they sent up a very pleasant young lady to my house - who left with a box of books. There was no clear idea of how the books are going to find their way back home when filming is over, but this is the Beeb, so mine is not to reason why.
When I was thinking about which LB books would best depict ideas of fatherhood, it occurred to me that actually the Peter and Jane books are almost the last time that Ladybird dealt with the cosy nucleur family. From the late 60s on the new books that were published no longer focus on family life. Either non-fiction or fairy-tales or tales of animals (Hannibal the Hamster) or fruit and veg! (The Garden Gang) or science fiction. Even the next reading schemes avoid looking too closely at the family - Puddle Lane is vaguly set in fantasy distant past, late-Victorian England with Gruffles and Griffles. The children involved are always playing out on the street. The adults are neighbours or The Magician. The cats - Tim and Tessa - seem to be raised by a single-mother and even the parents of the mice are absent for most of the series. The Sandlewood Girl and Iron Boy are parentless and are sort-of adopted at the end.
It's as if, from the 1970s the cosy Peter and Jane family was no longer felt to be relevant, comfortable territory. But this was Ladybird - safe, national treasure - who could hardly bring out their own Ladybird version of "Jenny lives with Eric and Martin". So instead they averted their Ladybird eyes and focused elsewhere and anywhere else.
Oh, and the picture of Peter in a life-jacket is because the programme makers were also interested in depictions of how children's freedom becomes restricted. The picture of Peter paddling on the river was revised in the early 70s; the artist, Martin Aitchison, was asked to paint a life-jacket over the original picture (shown above).
I think the programmes are coming out some time in August - BBC2.
Saturday, 20 June 2009
You'll find it here
I've also finished the Gallery pages for the 11 books in the Key Word series which I call the '1st Revision'.
You'll find them here.
Now, which series next? It would be logical to finish off the Key Word Readers - with the mid 70s editions. But I fancy a change ... Perhaps that wonderful nostalgia-fest which is series 563 ... or the History series ... or 'The Story of ...' series. So little time, so many Ladybird Books.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
If the former, indulge in a wee nostalgia-fest.
If the latter, perhaps this will help you probe your fears and gain relief.
Ok ok, so the following is a bi-product of playing with slideshow tools for work. But still.
Monday, 15 June 2009
A few weeks ago I delighted to be given a couple of letters which were written by L du Garde Peach to John Kenny. Now if you love the History series of Ladybird Books, (Series 561) those names will be familiar to to you. L du Garde Peach wrote every one of the History books from the first, 'King Arthur the Great' in 1956, to 'Elizabeth Fry' in 1973. Almost all of these were illustrated by Kenney.
These letters, written when du Garde Peach was in his early eighties, are a wonderful insight into the powerful personality of L du G (as he signed himself), his attitude to his work, the cordiality of relations with his long-time colleague Kenney and a caustic bewilderment at the world he was now living in. They are also particularly poignant as they were written only two years before his death in 1974 and in them discusses the books 'Elizabeth Fry' and 'The Pilgrim Fathers', which were to be among the last two books he was ever to write for Ladybird. At one point he mentions having just finished 'Henry II and Thomas Becket' but perhaps ill-health meant that his writing was not up to the usual standard - the 1st edition copy of the book on my shelves says it was written by John Roberts and illustrated by Roger Hall.
At the time of these letters - although neither of them can have known it - The Kenney/du Garde Peach collaboration had come to an end after 17 years and 27 books.
Friday, 5 June 2009
Not everyone likes the internet. There's something about actually browsing through books, especially old ones, which can't be reproduced online.
I vividly remember a trip to a little bookshop called 'Peakirk Books' shortly after I started collecting Ladybird Books. I had noticed from listings on the internet that this shop seemed to specialise in Ladybird Books so did some research and discovered that it was less than two hours away. So husband and young son kindly agreed to accompany me to the tiny village of Peakirk, near Peterborough.
The shop was small but the tiny attic-like upstairs was dedicated to children's books and, at the time, contained more old Ladybird Books than I had then ever seen in one place. The owner, who I recall was called Heather, made us a cup of tea as we browsed. It was heaven. Although the books weren't cheap (this was before Amazon and eBay increased availability and bought down the cost of common titles)there were lots of them and the browsing and sellecting was delicious. Finally I made my choice of books on my 'wants' list, paid the bill and came home - aware of having been extravagant, but having passed a great day (ok, there was also a trip to a local wild-fowl park, just to show husband and son a good time too. We collectors, selfish? Never!)
Well I remembered all of this this week because on Monday evening a man, a Ladybird Book collector, rang me, asking me if I only sold books online or if he could come around to browse through my vast hoard of swaps. And so the next day he did just that, embarking on a journey of about 2 hours, bringing his 'wants' list and tiny daughter with him. I made him a cup of tea, he sorted through the books in the attic, and went away happily with a box full of books.
Who knows if one day,he too will have an attic groaning under the weight of Ladybird swaps and the cycle of ladybird collecting will go on?
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Drag one of the 'spots' and drop on the 'i' for a larger snippet of information. To search for info on a term, drag and drop the 'spot' onto the page symbol.
Drag any snippet across to the notepage to keep hold of it.
Click here for a demo of what I mean
Or just click around and see what happens ; )
Friday, 29 May 2009
How indeed. I have now completed my gallery pages for the 606d series, so you should never make the same mistake again. The cover picture, publication years and illustrators are all covered, to make sure you get the right version next time.
You'll find it all here.
Despite other woes and preoccupations, I flatter myself that the nation will sleep just a little more peacefully tonight.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
I've just added a new section to my Ladybird Gallery: the later Well Loved Tales.
This contains the stories in series 606d which were introduced from 1979 onwards - after Ladybird decided to change the original format from the oh-so-popular original 27 books.
You'll find it here
The next stage will be the stories in series 606d which were issued in two very different versions (thereby confounding everybody who would later try to buy a copy of a well-remembered childhood book from a description on Amazon and invariably ended up with the wrong edition!)
This evening I noticed that BBC was repeating the edition of James May's 'My Sister's Top Toys' which featured Ladybird Books. You'll find it on the 'Videos' page of my website.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Monday, 23 March 2009
Not long now until car-boot sale season ...
Anyway, On the subject of questions and answers, I'm planning on setting up a new page on my website - Ladybird FAQs.
Question number one will be "Where can I get hold of the Peter and Jane Reading series?"
I get asked this question about once a week.
Any suggestions for other questions just let me know here or via my website: www. ladybirdflyawayhome.com
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
A lady brought in a piece of Harry Wingfield artwork on a recent edition of Floggit! The picture was from 'Going to School' and featured Ethel, Wingfield's wife. The piece was valued at between £600 and £800 - much nearer the mark, I think, than the valuation on Antiques Roadshow, a few weeks earler. You should be able to see the episode here for a little longer. The Wingfield bit is quite near the start.
The owner had no intention of selling her artwork. Very proper too.
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Uploading a few more pictures to the very slowly progressing project that is my Ladybird Gallery, I played around with the video presentation tool on Picasa and almost by accident ended up posting a video of the 27 original 606d Well Loved Tales books on YouTube!
But hey ho! If you have fond memories of the 1960s and early 70s Ladybird Fairy Tales, here's the link.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Fritz, the gentleman mentioned in the post below, is an actor - principally an 'extra' - or whatever the correct term is.
With his wild beard, matching scraggy pony-tail and nose ring he gets very particular parts - he says he is usually asked to play the down-and-out, the tramp, the survior of the atrocity several months on or something like that. He told me all this before we met up - as a warning that he might look scary.
Well he did look a bit scary, but was warm and interesting. And this leads me on to the point of my post. This turned into one of the very many odd, friendly and off-beat encounters that I have had as a result of my Ladybird hobby.
How many weekend mornings have I dragged husband (and sometimes son) off to meet the god-son of an artist, the grand-daughter of a writer or some other interesting character with their own collection of books or tale to tell.
And invariably the individual is intelligent, warm and friendly - if a little off-beat. Can this be coincidence? I doubt it. I think that there's something of a natural self-selection when it comes to anything to do with Ladybird Books.
To be an adult with an unabshed fondness for these little books seems to require a certain set of characteristics - which include self-deprecation and mild eccentricity.
Hold your heads high, Ladybods of the world.
Now here's a sight to warm my heart.
I was contacted by a very interesting sounding man who said he had a few box loads of Ladybird Books that he had been about to take to a charity shop. Having found my webiste online he asked me if I would be interested in them.
Now working my way through a lot of assorted old Ladybird Books is a rare treat for me so of course the answer was 'yes'. We arranged to meet at the Hatfield Galleria and, after a pleasant coffee and chat, I became the new owner. This man, Fritz, wasn't concerned about payment, although I gave him something for having made a fair old journey to get to me. We loaded the books into the car boot and I was about to close the door when we were both struck by the beauty of the scene - a whole car boot filled with 1960s Ladybird classics.
Now the fact that you have found your way to this blog and have read this far means that there's an evens chance that you will understand this view of aesthetics. Perhaps you will also appreciate what a great afternoon I had sorting through this 'haul'.
Or perhaps not.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Did anyone else see the Antiques Roadshow this evening?
I caught the tail-end of the piece on Ladybird Book original artwork and had to catch up on what I'd missed on the BBC iPlayer.
Just one comment (leaving aside the irritation of hearing the young child models for the 'Learning with Mother' series referred to as 'Peter and Jane' - the inaccuracy of which would bother no one but an anorak like me).
The programme's 'expert' rather under-values the very attractive Harry Wingfield artwork. I'm pretty sure that if those pieces came up for sale on eBay tomorrow they would sell for about twice the value that he stated. I know for a fact that attractive pieces of 'real' Peter and Jane artwork by Martin Aitchison sell for over £800, whilst a large, good quality print of Ladybird artwork can cost around £200.
Sunday, 4 January 2009
It will come as no surprise to regular visitors to www.ladybirdflyawayhome.com that the winner of this year's Wise Robin Christmas ladybird quiz (see posting below) is Nicole.
Let nobody doubt that Nicole knows her Ladybird stuff; she has been a regular winner of this annual Christmas quiz.
The two pictures above were the interlopers in the video montage. As Nicole correctly pointed out, they are both 'Jack and Jill' books and not 'Ladybird' at all. In the 1960s Fleetwood tried to emulate the success of Ladybird Books by issuing the J&J series using almost exactly the same design and layout. I can't remember how many titles were issued - but fewer than 20 and they weren't in print for many years.
Happy New Year
Saturday, 3 January 2009
How does that John Lewis ad go? If you know the person, you'll find the present.
Here is a quick insight into what my friends and family think of when choosing a gift for me. These are some, but not all, of my Ladybird themed Christmas presents this year.
What's not to like?