Sunday, 18 December 2011



The company Ladybird, having taken a number of years to feel anything but embarrassment about the National Treasure status of old Ladybird Book imagery, has had a volte-face. In the last few years, especially at Christmas, an increasing range of nostalgia-fest products have been for sale: jigsaws, mugs, lunch-boxes, pencil-cases etc. Notebooks have been one of the more affordable products - Ladybird Book-proportioned soft-back notebooks (like the Shopping With Mother one above) destined for the Christmas stockings and the scribbles of the nostalgic baby-boomer.

Recently another sort of Ladybird notebook has appeared at Hertfordshire craft fairs this winter. These are actual old Ladybird Books which have been operated upon - they've been unbound, had the covers removed and then been re-bound with a strong spiral coil, and with the pages interleaved with blank pages.

Assuming the original books had major flaws - no spine, missing pages etc - I like the idea of re-purposing them in this way. You can buy these books (not just Ladybird Books but a range of others too) at this website:

Always assuming ...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ladybird Christmas Quiz 2011

So here we are again.

This year I've made a version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'.

You'll find it here.

Sorry the questions don't start easy and get steadily harder - the application randomises them.

Want a prize this year? If you complete the quiz all the way to the end, take a screenshot of the final page and email it to me.

The first one I receive will receive a mystery, ladybird-themed prize. (A mystery because I haven't thought of one yet).

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Have you ever been to Hay-on-Wye? If you love books, you have to visit at least once. And once is never enough. Hay is a very small, pretty town just across the Herefordshire border, in Powys, Mid-Wales.

The area is very rural and very pretty, but what makes Hay remarkable is that it is stuffed full of 2nd-hand bookshops. Some people know it for its annual book festival, but I've never been to that. Over the many years that I've been collecting Ladybird Books, I've visited many times.

There are specialist children's bookshops and general shops - and once upon a time it was possible to find a bargain or a rare book in either. For example,I bought a DJ copy of Jeremy's Day in the Country for £5.00 in a specialist children's bookshop a few years ago and a proof-copy of a history book for 50p in another.

I was back in Hay last week, and it was still a lovely place to be in the sunshine of a mellow Autumn. Despite the doom and gloom in the bookshop world, Hay seems to be flourishing still - although the antiques shops that used to be well-represented in Hay seem to be finding times harder.

But Ladybird bargains? No longer easy-pickings. The specialist bookshops are still there, with well-stocked shelves. But the most popular books (such as the original Well Loved Tales 606d books) are conspicuously absent, and the prices have caught up too.

In this challenging climate, there's a new kid on the block. A small shop has opened near the centre of town called 'Barnabee Books'. And this small cave of a shop is planning on being niche indeed - advertising just Obervers and Ladybird Books for sale.

The shop looked brand new - it's not yet on the list of bookshops in town - but if you're just starting your collection or are prepared to spend a bit of money to fast-track your way through the series, you might want to pay a visit.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

An app for THAT?

Yes, what was the wait all about? Of course, there's now a Ladybird Book app.

No, not made by me. It's produced by the people who now own the Ladybird name, the Longman Group.

And it's actually very good!

Whilst focused on young children starting to read, they haven't made the mistake of forgetting the age of the parents or grandparents who own the iPhone or iPad (not iPod at the moment).

The range of Ladybird books that can be used within the app are Ladybird classics rather than new ones: a couple of old style Well Loved Tales, a couple of later style, a couple of original Read it Yourself and Talkabouts and a Ladybird Leader: Dinosaurs. This is more or less the extent of the current range of books which can be purchased in addition to the one that comes free when you download the app - The Zoo.

I expect they will wait to see which ones prove popular before adding to it.

Anyway, what does the app do?
Well, first of all, the Ladybird Book is reproduced in usual virtual flip-book style. No surprises there and the page-flipping sound is very satisfying. Secondly, the book comes with built-in 'hotspots' - so that when the child touches text, it activates an audio file and the text is read. When an image is read, a sound-effect is activated.

Again, this is much what you would expect from a purpose-built book app. The clever level of interactivity is that you can customise these 'hotspots' - replacing the default text and sound effects with your own, using the iThing's own microphone. It takes a couple of goes to get your head around how to navigate, record, restore and exit - but once you've got the hang of it, I can imagine a 4 - 6 year old having a lot of fun 'reading' with a carer and making their own version of a story.

Got an iPad or phone (iPhone 3GS or later) and a suitably-aged child to justify the purchase? Then You might want to give it a go. The initial app is pretty cheap (a pound or two) and comes with one book 'The Zoo'. After that, subsequent books currently cost £1.99 each.

I feel compelled by convention to add the following to end this post:

Of course, it's not the same as the real thing ...

Monday, 5 September 2011

First and Last

Son goes back to school tomorrow and so we begin turning our attention to What to Look for in Autumn.

Not the last day of the holidays for me. For me it's the last week before I go on holiday again. Having recently been made redundant, it's also the first day of the rest of my life.

So next week I'm going to shake things up a bit and do a bit of solo travelling - to China.

Scary but interesting, I hope.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Digital Ladybird

In the week that there has been much discussion on the future of the book in a world of eBooks I thought you might like to see this article from The Guardian, on the Ladybird brand's venture into the digital age:

'Ladybird Books' flies away to a new age

Thanks for the tip-off, Jenny

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Private-Eye upon Cinderella

Thanks to Jenny for the tip-off.

Here's the cover of Private-Eye mentioned in the comments of my last post.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Royal Wedding and Cinderella

Ok, the link is very tenuous - but since Ladybird don't seem to be continuing in the earlier tradition of rushing out a Ladybird Book to commemorate the latest Royal Wedding, perhaps I should do my part and celebrate it here with this picture which I have found in different places on the internet:

Cruel, of course, but ...

Friday, 22 April 2011

Sorry I'm late

Happy Easter!

I've been away for several days and didn't had access to a webcam so apologies to those of you who left messages on the audio Q&A below.

I've just caught up now with 4 new responses if you want to check them out below.

If you'd like to leave me a message, please do. Just type in the box and press 'Send'. But look out for the next message which requires you to press Send a second time. I'm up to date with responses, so if you haven't received one, it's because it never arrived.

Have a great break - which will also mark the start of my car-boot Ladybird-hunting season!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ask me a question

Here's a Question and Answer application that I was experimenting with for work. I didn't originally intend to share it as it looks like a bit of an ego-trip. But having created it and had a few people ask me questions ...

Ask me any question (about Ladybird Books)and I'll try to answer them for you here.

After typing your question in the box, click 'send'. But watch out for the next message which also requires you to click Send - it seems to need reassurance - and to be told to SEND 2 or 3 times! Click just once and I won't get your message - regardless of what I tell you! Give it a go.

Or click on the questions that someone has already asked me (below):

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Cassettes - remember them?

It seems a lot of people do.

For a short period, I think between the late 1970s and 1980s, Ladybird started to publish many fiction titles with an accompanying cassette. Occasionally at a car-boot sale I'll still come across a cassette from a Puddle Lane, WLT or Children's Classic book.

Although these cassettes don't seem to have been issued for very long, they seem to have been valued, at least in retropect, by erstwhile owners. This email, which I received last week, is quite typical:

For some years now I have been searching for the "well loved tales" series by Ladybird with the accompanying audio cassettes. Especially their 1979 version of "The Ugly Duckling" would be a fantastic find. I see you offer most of the books but there is no mention of the audio tapes, do you happen to have these as well? Or know where I can find them, possibly converted to MP3?

I have no answer to these enquiries. Does anyone know if you can still get hold of them anywhere?

Monday, 7 February 2011

A Ladybird Books promotion - new and old?

The newspaper The Mirror's latest collaborative promotion.

I wonder if this promotion might encourage people to think back to the 'real' Ladybird Books of their childhood? (See my previous post)

Friday, 4 February 2011

A new Ladybird article

In March's edition of 'Home and Antiques Magazine' (BBC) there's an article on 'charming Ladybird Books'. It's subtitled Instant Expert and has been put together by Antiques Roadshow presenter Katherine Higgins - with a little help from a few Ladybods including myself.

Lots of lovely, retro images of lovely retro Ladybird Books (most of which came from my own shelf via Royal Mail to the magazine 'stylist' - and back again).
Coming to a newsagent near you ...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Hannibal Seeks a Buyer

Hannibal (The hamster, not the Alps and elephants one) would probably be my pick for the most under-rated Ladybird Book series. The stories are likeable and informative and John Berry's artwork is fantastic - his photographic style leavenened by the fact that his hero is a small furry animal, not a work-worn 1970s state employee.

This evening I have received an email from someone who has a piece of John Berry artwork that she would like to sell. If you are interested, she is quoting '£500 or nearest offer'.

So do email me if you'd like more details and I'll put you in touch with her.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Endearing Indira?

If you often visit eBay - perhaps in quest of Ladybird Books - you might some times have tried searching by 'Most expensive item first'. If you've tried that in recent weeks you might have seen a Ladybird Book 'Indira Gandhi' at the top of that list.

Yes, that's right. £350.00 for a laminated Ladybird Book which dates from 1986. A seller's typo? Did the seller mean £3.75? Isn't even that quite dear for a relatively recent book?

Well clearly £350.00 wasn't a typo. When the book failed to sell at that price, it swiftly re-appeared at £325. As you can see, it is currently listed with a starting price of £325.00 (Buy-it-now option of £350.00).

So should you 'Buy it now'? Well, guess what. I wouldn't if I were you.

Yes, actually this is a pretty rare book. Not many were printed. Perhaps the book was commissioned shortly after her assassination, when the world was still shocked at the turn of events. Perhaps when the book was finally ready for distribution in 1986, the world had moved on. Perhaps now Ladybird was concerned that they might be accused of political bias. Or perhaps it simply didn't sell very well.

At any rate, there were never many copies in circulation and so Indira Gandhi today is perhaps the hardest-to-find Ladybird Book ever printed with a glossy cover (ie after 1983).

But it's not exactly 'The Impatient Horse'. There are copies out there. I've come across 3 copies on sale in charity shops for charity-shop prices since I've been collecting. If really want one to complete a collection, you'll find one sooner or later if you hang on for long enough.

Can't wait? Just look a bit further down the list of the same eBay search and you'll find this one

A 'mere' £49.00 ...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

And the winner is ...

I am proud to announce the winner of this year's Ladybird Christmas Quiz as ...

Robert Fearn. Robert, I can send you your grand prize of Ladybird wind chimes if you let me know your address.

Here are the answers. In general it was the classical music which foxed people.

Question 1

(2 words)

Answer: Black Beauty

Question 2

(3 words)

Answer: Boys and Girls
(Peter and Jane book 3b)

Question 3

(Various contenders for this one. Choose the first of the series. 3 words)

Answer: The Silver Arrow(Theme to 'Robin Hood' Prince of Thieves)

Question 4

(1 word)

Answer: Fireworks(Music for the Royal Fireworks - Handel)

Question 5

(3 words)

Answer: Bonnie Prince Charlie(Skye Boat Song)

Question 6

(2 words)

Answer: Sleeping Beauty(Tchaikovsky)

Question 7

(2 words)

Answer: Baby Jesus

Question 8

(2 words)

Answer: The Snowman

Thanks to all those who took part

Happy New Year!