The covers alone do it for me. One glance at Sir Walter Raleigh proffering his cape or Florence Nightingale swinging her lamp and I am immediately transported back to my tiny bedroom in our north-London council house, snuggling between other covers with a series of heroes. Ladybird books, those little hardback, brightly coloured epics, were such a vital part of my youth that their appeal still resonates to this day.I know exactly the illustrations he's referring to, because the same books were very much part of my childhood too and thinking about them transports me back. Every alternate Saturday we used to drive from our house in to visit my mother's parents in Melton Mowbray. And at the end of every visit my grandparents would give me the princely sum of half-a-crown, two shillings and sixpence in a shiny silver coin. It was exactly the price of a Ladybird book, and already a bookworm before I was five, I always asked my parents to stop at a newsagents on the way home where I could buy another for my collection.
The books were produced in my home town, Loughborough, Leicestershire and the plant only closed in 1999 when the company was taken over by Penguin.
The books I loved most were the beautifully illustrated nature books of Series 536, and I think I collected the whole lot of them. I don't know what happened to those copies, but suppose they got passed on to some jumble sale or another when my mum thought we had grown out of them.
If you fancy embarking on the Ladybird nostalgia trip yourself, do check out the The Wee Wee website which is a one stop guide to everything you might want to know about the books. Also enjoyable is Libby Purves earlier article about Ladybird from the Times.
(The picture shows a Ladybird books in a 1950's shop window and comes from The Wee Wee.)