Sunday, 30 March 2014

Mummy through the decades

Recently I've been taking a closer look at how family members are shown across the decades in Ladybird Book. 'Mummy' in the 40s 50s and even 60s is often a very glamorous creature - very slender and with wonderfully coiffered hair and unsuitable clothes for the occasion. Here, on Mother's Day, is a summary: 'Mummy' through the decades in Ladybird Books

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

How to date Ladybird Books

As all collectors know, Ladybird Books can be harder than most to accurately date.  For the most part, the only date in a vintage Ladybird Book is on the title page - and that date is the date of the publication of the first edition, not the actual edition you have in your hand.  This is one of the reasons why so many Ladybird Books are falsely described as 'First Editions' on the internet and even in specialist bookshops.

On the other hand, once you have got your head around the basics, doing a bit of detective work can be part of the fun of collecting.  A collecting pal of mine, Andrew Brade, sent me a table that he uses to help date his books.  It uses guidelines you can find elsewhere (including in the 'How Old is my  Book' section of my website) - original price, tally numbers etc.  But it has been very neatly put together and might be useful to other people out there.  He tells me he is happy for me to share it so here it is:

Click on it to enlarge!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Peter and Jane - The Lost Episodes

Superficially similar to Miriam Elia's work (but actually very different) is this work of artist Jon Bentley: "Peter and Jane - The Lost Episodes".

What I like about this piece is that, once you get your head around it, you realise that it isn't a parody at all but an interpretation.

 I can just about remember what it felt like to look at one of the Key Word Readers, as a young child. You had the excitement and anticipation of moving on to a new book. The pictures were so vivid and the characters familiar. You felt that they had to contain something more vivid and absorbing than the stolid text suggested. There MUST be more going on, and if you looked at the picture for long enough you would see the hidden subtext. Perhaps Jane had actually had a row with Peter that morning and was sulking. Peter was planning to hide Daddy's hammer and Jane was considering whether to tell on him. What was the Policeman REALLy looking for? ...

The richness of the pictures in contrast with the key word-driven text seemed to insist that there HAD to be more to the scenario.

This contrast between the magical anarchy of a child's imagination and humdrum daily reality, for me, is what Jon Bentley has captured in his artwork. Here it is:

 The Lost Episodes

What do you think?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Peter and Jane and Parody

Here is Peter. Here is Jane and here is an excellent vehicle for parody.  This is fun!

Peter, Jane, Mummy, Daddy and Pat the Dog have been asking for it, pretty well since they were invented, in 1964.

For example, there's Wendy Cope's poem, 'Reading Scheme' reflecting on Mummy's relationship with the Milkman:

I've even had a go myself: "Peter and Jane Help Themselves"

One piece that is attracting attention and no little controversy is Miriam Elia's recent book: 'We Go the the Gallery'.

According to the Channel4 Publishers Penguin may take legal action against artist Miriam Elia and her book We go to the gallery . A satire on modern art, it's written in the style of the Ladybird books key words series.

This video explains the story - in mock Reading Scheme style!