Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review of the week and new year's resolution

It's very satisfying to see the steep climb in visits to my website following the Timeshift Ladybird Books documentary last week.

The programme led me to review my website and to realise how horribly neglected it has been in recent months since I've been so focused on learning Chinese.  So my new year's resolution list is headed by the determination to dust off and upgrade my Ladybird sites.

This will involve bringing my 'bookshop' into the 21st century, mending broken links, updating and adding to content. 

I've made a start already.  Somewhere along the line, all the data from my 'Ladybird posh frock' poll has disappeared.  This is an important matter and such vital research must not be lost to the nation.

As a result, I've started again.  But I need your data.  Women of Britain (or elsewhere) please let me know your views (again?).  Which Ladybird frock did it for you when you were a child? (Or maybe still does?)

Please vote and let's replace the missing data.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Amidst all the kerfuffle

about the Timeshift documentary, a reminder of the forthcoming Ladybird 'Centenary':


Friday, 20 December 2013

Woman's Hour, Radio 4 today

Just back from the BBC studio in Luton where I was asked to contribute to Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

If was all very easy and straightforward - turn up, sound-check, answer a few questions, go home.

But it was something different, a bit of fun and all part of the long list of interesting activity that my Ladybird Book habit has let me into. 

It was all in aid of publicising the Ladybird Book documentary on BBC4, this Sunday (22nd Dec) at 9.pm.  The programme-makers for BBC4 seem to do so much as a labour of love - which can only be to the benefit of quality journalism. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The BBC Blog

I was asked this week to write a post for the BBC TV blog.

My post on the BBC Blog is now live:

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Official Advert for Ladybird Books documentary

To millions of people, Ladybird Books were as much a part of childhood as battery powered torches and warm school milk. These now iconic pocket sized books once informed us on such diverse subjects as how magnets work, what to look for in winter and how to make decorations out of old egg shells.  But they also helped to teach many of us to read via a unique literacy scheme known as ‘Key Words’.   Ladybird books were also a visual treat - some of the best known contemporary illustrators were recruited to provide images which today provide a perfect snapshot of the lost world of Ladybirdland: a place that is forever the gloriously ordinary, orderly1950s.

THE LADYBIRD BOOKS STORY: THE BUGS THAT GOT BRITAIN READING takes a look at the vintage years - from 1953 to 1973 - when millions of Ladybird books were sold and almost every household had some.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

A date for the Timeshift Ladybird Books documentary

And in this festival of Ladybird loveliness, I find out when the Ladybird Book documentary is due to be screened.

The date I've just been given is ...
December 22nd.

For old/vintage  Ladybird Book fans out there, this has GOT to be a date for your diary.  I am confident that the programme-maker, Merryn Threadgould, will do a really good job with this documentary - the first decent length recount of the Ladybird story. 

With only a few short weeks to make the programme, Merryn quickly became so absorbed in the material she was gathering that she developed what seemed to be a real enthusiasm for the subject.  She quickly came to appreciate the different perspectives that the subject matter has to offer: social history, nostalgia, humour,  literacy, biography, all tied together in a colourful, crafted, hand-sized box. 

I believe this programme, part of the Timeshift series on BBC4, will take a chronological approach, tracing the phenomenal rise and fall of the small, private company Wills & Hepworth in Leicestershire, picking out in particular the role of Douglas Keen.

Friday, 29 November 2013

I SO did not say ...

Just watched today's Celebrity Antiques Road Trip

Be it known ...
I SO did not say that I had the world's largest private collection of Ladybird Books!  They just made that up!

Here's the link to the episode on iPlayer.  The Ladybird Book bit starts 19 minutes in.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Celebrity Antiques Road Trip

One of my favourite TV programmes has to be Antiques Road Trip.  I never miss one and am quite happy to watch repeats.  I just find the format works really well, so when a BBC researcher got in touch to ask if I would be happy for my Ladybird Book collection to be featured in the Celebrity version of the programme, I found I would indeed be very happy.  The basic format of the programme is that a couple of antiques experts travel round the country in a vintage car, picking up interesting items along the way which are auctioned off at the end of each programme in a competition to see which 'expert' makes the most profit (for Children in Need).  In the celebrity version, the 'trips' last a couple of days not a week and the expert is accompanied by a celeb. 

No, strangely enough, I was not the celebrity in question.  Funny old world - but there you are.  In the middle of each programme there are a couple of little 'features' when each expert usually goes on a little visit to a museum or visits a collection of some sort.  And so it came to pass, one day this July, our quiet Cul de Sac was enlivened by the arrival of a vintage Jag, a TV antiques expert, Will Axon and the very blonde Kim Wilde - along with half a dozen jolly progamme makers, who take up a lot of room in a small house and like drinking tea.

The whole afternoon was enormous fun.  I have no idea which snippet from the quantity they filmed will be included in the programme but we looked at some LBs that Kim had brought with her and also some original artwork by Martin Aitchison.

I haven't heard exactly when the show is going out but it's usually on around teatime on weekdays on BBC2.  I think they said something about it going out at the time of Children in Need.

Will let you know more if I find it out myself.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Spot the Ladybird - your help needed

I'm often asked to help someone identify a dearly remembered book from the odd line or description of a picture.  Often I can do it - but this one may be a bit modern for me.  Can anyone help?

Ladybird Books have often played around with the idea of kids being able to spot something small hidden on each page, but what could this be?

I'm thirty years old and have recently had my first child. My mum and I are 
trying to track down a book from when I was very young but we can't remember the 
title. We just know that on each page there was a hidden ladybird to find. We we 
wondering if you might know which book this is. 

Hope someone can help

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Timeshift - BBC4

Rather belatedly, here's news of some of the Ladybird Land business I mentioned in my last post. Episode 1.

The BBC4 Series Timeshift is going to do a whole long documentary on Ladybird Books!

They've been getting in touch with a whole load of Ladybird folk over the past couple of months and when my time came I spent a very nice time indulging in all things Ladybird.  The focus is going to be chronological, I think - 1940 to ... 2000?  Tied together with the story of Douglas Keen.

The director was impressively on top of her brief - I would even suggest she might have been bitten by the bug, so enthusiastic was she about most aspects of the Ladybird story.  She was even able to tell me information I didn't know about Ladybird - not bad after only a few weeks to research!

I've had a few experiences before of journalists and programme makers before.  This team, though, win my nomination for "nicest people to share an afternoon with".  I hope the programme they make is as engaging and interesting as Merryn, Claire and Adam.

When I hear more about when the programme will be shown, I'll share it here.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Busy busy in Ladybird Land

The normal tranquillity of Ladybird Land has been rather disrupted lately.  For one reason or another, there have been lots of journalists and programme makers looking into the subject.  The main reason seems to be the forthcoming 'centenary' of Ladybird.  Centenary of what? You may ask.  Good question, as the the books we most associate with Ladybird first made their appearance in 1940.

But the trade name 'Ladybird' was first used by Wills and Hepworth some time before that - when the commercial printing company started to publish rather rough and ready children's books when there was little other work around.  You can find a picture of a typical pre-1940s Ladybird Books here:

Apparently the establishment of the brand is the centenary in question.

In addition, and I think co-incidentally, the One Show - BBC1, has latched on to ITA.  The post I did about ITA Ladybird Books has consistently attracted more comments than anything else I've written, which just goes to show how little there must be out there on this fascinating topic.  Here was my original post.

I'll keep you posted about further programmes as I find out more about the breeze rippling the Ladybird pond at the moment. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Robert Lumley and Well Loved Tales - 606d

Robert Lumley and Eric Winter are the two artists I am most often asked about.  This reflects the enduring popularity of the 27 Well Loved Tales titles issued between 1964 (starting with Cinderella) until The Musicians of Bremen (1974).

(For a quick 'walk-through' of all the titles see this quick video:)

Between them, Winter and Lumley illustrated them all (except for one title, The Princess and the Frog) by 'Capaldi'.  That their powerful, evocative illustrations were the reason for the huge success of this series is evidenced by the fact that the revised version of these books initially kept Vera Southgate's original text, but were re-illustrated.  These later books have never achieved the same popularity of the earlier.

I've just posted a new artist biography, supplied to me by Robert Lumley's son (and winner of this year's poor excuse for a Christmas quiz!).

It's full of great Ladybird anecdotes and details.

Robert Lumley

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

B H Robinson - Ladybird artist

I've just made a new page about the life and work of the Ladybird artist B H Robinson.

He illustrated a large number of books for Ladybird in the late 70s and 80s, including 'Horses' 'Dogs' and many of the 'How it Works' and 'Leaders' series.

You'll find it here:


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Batty Ladybird Woman

A rather cringe-worthy Daily Mirror feature today

And they've made the 3 years older than I am!  The indignity!

My brother isn't too pleased about being accused of vandalism by the Daily Mirror (Ok, by his sister).

Look out in the Sunday Mirror for another Ladybird feature - I think they're hoping to interview Martin Aitchison, who always has good Ladybird stories to tell.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Easy on the Eye

I thought I'd lost it - the first Ladybird website I found online, all those years ago when I first started collecting LBs and was first getting to know how this thing everyone kept talking about, this 'internet' worked.

Although NR hasn't updated his site for a while (I know, I'm a fine one to talk) I was delighted to find the link again.  My previous link had stopped working and, despite searching around, thought it had been taken down.  But here it ism, full of useful info and LB stuff:

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Old Ladybird Books on TV

If you live in the Midlands, you may have seen a lovely feature on Ladybird Books on BBC 1 yesterday.

If features Martin Aitchison, Jenny Pearce lots of my books and artwork and me!

If you live in another region, you can see it here for 1 week only: