Friday, 19 December 2008

Two more broadsheets have printed full obituaries to Douglas Keen this week. Here are the online versions:

The Times

The Independent

Following The Guardian obit, readers wrote letters for days afterwards saying why Ladybird had been important for them too. This is a flavour of what they wrote.

It was not just children for whom Ladybird Books opened up the world of learning (Douglas Keen obituary, November 29). As an IT training officer in the early 70s, I used to recommend the book on computers to trainee programmers as the clearest guide to the basics of computing. They usually found it extremely useful.
Charlie Withall

Required reading on our design course at the London College of Printing was the Ladybird Book of Printing Processes (Letters, December 9). Presumably so the typesetters and machine minders could pull the wool only so far over our eyes.
James Alexander

Some years ago I put the excellent Ladybird Book of Spelling and Grammar on the reading list for my first-year journalism students. I was quietly advised to remove it before the Daily Mail found out.
Bernard Pratt
Cheadle, Cheshire

Studying for my history A-level as a strapping 18-year-old in 1970, I used to receive what could be described at best as quizzical looks from my local librarian every two weeks as I repeatedly withdrew the Ladybird Book of Napoleon Bonaparte (Letters, December 1). I have to this day not seen a better overview of the great man. It served me well too!
Bob Buntine

As a Methodist minister, I have regularly recommended, and frequently given, the Ladybird book on John Wesley to people asking about the origins of Methodism (Letters, December 5).
Kip Bennett
Greenford, Middlesex

Douglas Keen's younger daughter Caroline contributed the following touching letter:

My father Douglas Keen was an avid Guardian reader until he died aged 95. He would have been honoured by the full-page, full-colour obituary (November 29). But for his beloved Ladybird Books to be praised on the letters page - now that's a true compliment.
Caroline Alexander

Looking up these hyperlinks I came across an online discussion which had taken place last year, but which I'd missed. One commentator suggested that Ladybird Books were overrated and the debate really kicked off. You can follow it here and take up your own position. For me, this contributor summed it up beautifully:

"After all this there's probably an opportunity for someone to do The Ladybird Bird Book of Missing the Point. These amazing little books are continually bandied about in the pursuit of some obscure politically correct agenda, when the truth is that any pre-1975 Ladybird Book [ie the Douglas Keen years] has enormous visual appeal for anyone with an eye for sheer quality of design, illustration and printing. That's it."

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