Monday, 20 December 2010

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Story of Music

Have I made it a bit hard this year? So far no one has scored more than 4 out of the 8 Christmas Quiz questions.

If you think you can beat 4, have a go here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ladybird Musical Christmas Quiz 2010

This year, a musical theme - and a prize! The winner of the quiz will win some Ladybird wind-chimes. If I get more than one submission of the correct answer (which usually happens) I'll put all correct answers into a hat and randomly select one after Christmas.

OK so down to the serious business:

1) Listen to the 8 clips below. Which mainly pre-1980s Ladybird Book is referred to by each tune? In most cases the clue might be in the title of the song, or it might be a theme tune to film or programme. In one case, the clue is a bit more tenuous - more to do with the origins of the song.

2) Jot down the answers somewhere, you won't be able to go back to listen again easily once you click on the 'submit here' link. (You can re-submit/change your answers any number of times). Alternatively, you can just email me your answers:

3) When you think you know the 8 Ladybird Books, click on the link at the bottom of this post, type your email address in the 'name' box (so I can identify the winner) and submit your answers.

4) Check back after Christmas to see the winner

Good luck!

Question 1

(2 words)

(Remember, the link to submit your answers is at the bottom, below the 8 clips but it's easier to jot down your answers on paper before going there). Alternatively you can email me:

Question 2

(3 words)

Question 3

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

Question 4

(1 word)

Question 5

(3 words)

Question 6

(2 words)

Question 7

(2 words)

Question 8

(2 words)

Think you know all or most of the answers? Click here

REMEMBER to type your email address in the 'name' box (so I can identify the winner) and submit your answers. Use only lower case and no punctuation.

Identified a song too late? You can resubmit - I'll take your best answer.

Good luck - and Happy Christmas to everybody!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Stumpy the Bear?

I am often asked to identify books from fairly little information - someone will email me asking if I can help them identify a much loved childhood book from some vague recollection of an illustration or a line of text.

To be honest, it's usually easy to help. I'm surprised by how often it is the same books that are enquired about in this way - the same images which have lodged in peoples' heads over several decades.

For example I'm often asked about a book of poems that has one about cleaning out a porridge bowl or that contains a poem about daddy falling into a pond. (Bedtime Rhymes, edited by Audrey Daly). The earlier Lapage incarnation of Bedtime Rhymes is another which seems to haunt people, who fondly remember 'Old Tom Tomato' 'Gee Gees and Hee Haws' etc.

However, sometimes people will contact me, convinced that the book that they recall is a Ladybird Book, but which I don't recognise at all - and that's happened this week:

I'm trying to track down a book from my childhood to give to my daughter .
I'm pretty sure it was a ladybird book called Stumpy . The story was about a teddy bear found on the beach by a young child . Sorry i cant be more specific about the story . I have looked on various web sites and even on the ladybird site . It would mean a lot if i could get hold of a copy .

Can anyone out there help? I don't recognise it, but maybe the writer of the email is quite young and the book is outside my range of interest (1940 - 1985). Do let me know if you can help.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

New Martin Aitchison artwork for sale

Martin Aitchison has released some more pieces of original Ladybird Book artwork for sale.

Take a look at his gallery here. There are some lovely pieces here. I think my favourite is 'Liang Painted a Storm' from the Read it Yourself story 'The Magic Paintbrush'. It's magical. I also particularly like one of the Puddle Lane pieces.

Martin's main website:

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Night Sky

I received this 'video response' today to a Ladybird Book themed video on YouTube.

This captures so well the power that a well-pitched, well-written, beautifully illustrated book can have on a child.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Reading on the tube

A couple of good friends visited me from the USA this summer. Of course they wanted to visit London and were especially keen to see The Tower of London.

Since you get more out of a visit when you know a bit of background reading, I started looking around the internet for some engaging potted histories – when it occurred to me that I had shelves of them behind me. I took down a couple of History series books – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and rather tentatively, suggested they might want to look them.

Once my friends had got over their surprise that Ladybird Books weren’t just about fluffy bunnies and obedient school children – an impression they’d picked up from the books they’d noticed lying around my house – they picked up a book and started reading. And reading.

They read right through a book each in one sitting and then swapped books , occasionally reading out snippets to each other – and asked for more! My friends are both over 50 and educated to Post Grad level – but as an engaging intro to interesting periods in British history, these little children's books ticked the box as no other.

The following day, they headed off to the Tower of London, sitting on train and tube happily reading their Ladybird Books. “Yes”, they said afterwards, “they’d got a few strange looks”. But these two aren’t the sort to care.

Perhaps Ladybird should have produced an alternative 'grown up' cover to spare adult blushes when reading in public - as Bloomsbury did with Harry Potter. Oh wait, Ladybird did try that once of course:

"How it Works: The Computer was used by university lecturers to make sure that students started at the same level. Two hundred copies of this same book were ordered by the Ministry of Defence. But it was a special order, with the the books in plain brown covers, to save embarrassment!"

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Great Cirencester Ladybird Hunt

Cirencester Ladybird Book Hunt

How's this for dedication - and a bit of creativity! In Cirencester, the Oxfam bookshop has organised a special week featuring old Ladybird Books. They have had the idea of involving other local shops and children can take part in a Ladybird Book Hunt.

Here are the instructions if you'd like to take part:
Ladybird Book Hunt Word Doc

If you live nearby and would like to take part, ere's the Ladybird Book Hunt sheet, which you can print off:

Ladybird Book Hunt

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Ladybird Book featured pretty prominently on Doctor Who this week. Not a 'proper' Ladybird Book, you might say. Not a Ladybird classic. The Romans, 1994 - not the wonderful L. du Garde Peach/Kenney classic from 1959.

But then it's unlikely that Amy Pond, now aged 19, would have the 1959 version by her bedside. Even in Doctor Who.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

This year's car boot season

So far the car boot season has been a bit disappointing. We've had pretty good weather - but weekend mornings have been a bit wet. Or maybe I'm getting old and the attraction of the early morning car boot field in quest of rare Ladybird finds is not quite as strong as the counter-attraction of a weekend lie-in.

Last year I had a one-off car-boot stall at the St Albans Rugby club (ah! so that's where the picture fits in). The SA Rugby Club appealed because it isn't too big, is on a Saturday not a Sunday and starts at a much later hour than most - 9.30 a.m ish. I sold lots and lots of surplus-to-requirement Ladybird Books, mainly for 50p each, some for £1.00 and some modern ones for 20p. My husband didn't think I would cover the cost of the £8.00 sellers fee, but actually things went pretty well.

So I'm thinking of doing the same this year. If you live in the vicinity of St Albans, come along and say hello. Don't expect any Wonks or High Tides for 50p but if you live locally and there's something you'd like me to bring, email me in advance. When? Well it will depend on the weather, of course but I'm thinking of next week (Saturday 26th June).

View Larger Map

Monday, 7 June 2010

A Pop--Up Ladybird Book!

Ok, this is very silly. But experimenting with an new online tool, I might as well share the product.

The story of how I became a collector of Ladybird Books:

You'll find it here.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Room Full of Peters

I once went to the launch of a Ladybird exhibition or nostalgia-fest book and the speaker (who worked for Penguin) opened by asking,

"Is there a Peter or Jane in the room?"

She went on to say that at most Ladybird functions, about half a dozen middle-aged people emerge one-by-one over the course of the evening to say that they were Peter or Jane - that is to say, as a child they had modelled for the artwork.

Every now and then an article will appear in the press, entitled "The Real Jane" or "The Real Peter", telling us that x or y was the 'original model'. A year or two ago on the Antiques Roadshow someone was presented as 'Peter' - along with the artwork he modelled for. Sometimes we are shown the artwork that the child modelled for and, as in the A.R. man's case, it isn't even from a Peter and Jane book at all!

The two main artists who worked on the Key Word Reader scheme both stated several times that there was no one model who 'was' Peter or Jane. Instead a variety of children were used over the years - with the artists using their imagination and a few consistent features to ensure that the characters were clearly recognisable to young children. (That said, I think Adrian Heath's claim to be 1970s Peter is stronger than most as I can recognise him in quite a number of Martin Aitchison pieces).

But that's why it was so reassuring to write the piece "The Boy who ISN'T Peter" some years ago. Sorting out my files, I came across it and thought I would dust it off here. Click in image below to read:

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Sniffup? Spotera

If that means anything to you, you may have been in the Puffin Club as a child. Or perhaps you still are :)

This weekendI read an article on Puffin Books, and for many of us, there is a real connection between the golden ages of Ladybird and Puffin. Both publishers played a key role in revolutionising children's publishing - so if you missed the article, here it is:

I loved Puffin Books - I read and re-read masses of them at school and at home. I was a paid up member of the Puffin Club. So why is it that I'm a Ladbird Book collector today and am rarely tempted to buy when I see a much loved puffin book in a charity shop today?

Two answers, I think. The first is 'age' - Ladybird influenced me at a younger age so the nostalgic attraction goes deeper. The main answer though is 'pictures'. I might love the story it contains, but it's hard to love a fall-about paperback with only the occasional black and white illustration. You might read and re-read 'The Little Wooden Horse' or 'Cue for Treason' - but you couldn't 'pore over' a Puffin Book. They weren't a treat to hold in your hands - whereas with a Ladybird Book the enjoyment was derived more from the pictures, the colour, the details and depth that the artwork added to the story.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Toys and Games

Here's the 4th episode of the story behind some of Robert Ayton's Ladybird artwork, as told by his nephew. This one is my personal favourite so far, as I loved this book as a child.

Click on the book below. Then to turn the pages, click on the right hand arrow. (To get rid of ads, click the small arrow top right):

Monday, 22 March 2010

Reading with Roger

I have just come across the following wonderful poem here - and it seems so appropriate for this blog.

From "from The State of Poetry by Roger McGough"

Children’s Writer

John in the garden

Playing goodies and baddies

Janet in the bedroom

Playing mummies and daddies

Mummy in the kitchen

Washing and wiping

Daddy in the study


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Friday, 12 March 2010

Recollections through Books - Robert Ayton, Part 1

Here is the first part of Rupert Ayton's recollections of his Uncle Robert, the Ladybird Illustrator.

There will be several more 'chapters' to follow. But for now ...

Part 1 - The Story of Flight

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Robert Norton Ayton

I've added a new biography page to Below you'll find a biography of Robert Norton Ayton, illustrator of many Ladybird Books from the 'golden age' of the 1960s and 70s.

You'll find it here

Coming soon: Reminiscences of Ayton's life - via his Ladybird Books.

Links for searching

A new 'Search Cloud'.
Click on the words to search and explore some of my Ladybird pages.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Another obituary for John Berry

A very warm piece, written by a journalist who knew John Berry, appeared in the Guardian yesterday.

Here's the link to the online version.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A Quick History of Ladybird books

I've made a new 'History of Ladybird Books' presentation.

To view it you need to click the arrow at the bottom of the presentation - it might take a few seconds to load. Keep clicking that arrow to advance through it:

Hope you enjoy it

Sunday, 3 January 2010

RIP John Berry

I have only just heard that John Berry died just before Christmas, aged 89.

When Ladybird was reaching its peak in the 1960s and 70s John Berry was one of the favoured artists. His style is photographic and was the perfect choice to illustrate, and indeed document, the working world of 1960s Britain in the People at Work series, for which he is best known (in Ladybird Land). However, he illustrated books from numerous other series - including a couple of original Peter and Jane books and, one of my favourites, the Hannibal the Hamster series of the early 1970s - a rather underrated series imho.

Colleages of Berry's said: "If you could photograph it, Berry could paint it" - but to paint successful portraits requires more than exceptional mechanical skill; outside Ladybird Land, I heard once that Berry painted a portrait of George Bush (senior) which was on display in the White House. He certainly painted Dina Pricess of Wales on one occasion.

I never met John Berry, although I have acquired a couple of pieces of his artwork. a relative of mine lives in the next village and gave me his phone number which she took out of the phone book, but I was too shy to make contact.

You will find an obituary from The Telgraph here.