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):