Saturday, 28 November 2009

Not a blog person? Prefer to print out and read?

If you'd prefer to 'print out' this blog, to read in your own time, click on this link:

A pdf

Friday, 27 November 2009

Toys and Games

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

Happy Birthday Martin Aitchison

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

Google doesn't love me

Any day now, Google is going to change the way that it provides search results. I've taken a look at where my websites/blog will be after the changeover - and they go plummeting down the listings for some reason. A search by the term 'ladybird books' prioritises all the commercial sites over the homespun ones like mine, which is a bit sad.

So if you tend to use 'Google' to get to this blog or my site - please take a moment to bookmark me, before I vanish!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Ladybird Books in ITA

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"

I replied:
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: