Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Lost World of Ladybird

Do you remember Ladybird books? Robert Elms reminisces about them in today's Independent :
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.)


Anonymous said...

enid blyton!

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you were from Loughborough! I used to know their address by heart :-) . I LOVED so many of these books. In the series mentioned, King Alfred and the Burnt Cakes (I think it was the same series?) particularly stuck in my head. My mum did all the projects in the "Learning with Mother" series with me because I was alone at home with no siblings my age.... And of course there were Peter and Jane and Pat and later on their cousins as well when they went on adventures.....

We still have some fairly old ones from the '60s when my brothers were growing up. They have brown covers, the colour of brown paper bags, and glossy pages inside. Tootles the Taxi, does anyone remember him? Cuthbert the Coal-cart?

Ah, thank you for posting this! This bout of nostalgia is just what I needed to get me going today.

-- Preeta

Kak Teh said...

sharon, I remember buying the Learning to read through recognition series for our firstborn. It was wonderful just looking at his face as he could recognised words and from then on reading was easy. I am sure there are some in boxes up in the attic together with Thomas and his friends.

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

off topic:

another day, another fake memoir


bibliobibuli said...

thanks yes. i did read that and plan to put up something about it. one after the other, isn't it?

just don't call 'em memoirs!

Anonymous said...

oooh ... peter and jane taught me how to read; i shall forever be indebted to them ;p

Anonymous said...

I have a big collection of Ladybird books. Grew up with them and I love them. They are amongst my most treasured possessions. But I don't think I read any of them. My brother Karim read the words but I just looked at the pictures and made up the story from there.

Thanks for the post. I've often wondered what happened to Ladybird.

Anonymous said...

According to Wee Wee website my books are worth hundreds. And yet according to ebay they're not worth very much. Confusing. But I'd never sell them. Besides, they're covered in crayon marks.

bibliobibuli said...

they're covered in crayon marks. that's so sweet. i think it makes the books even more valuable.

oh dear. i wish i still had mine. i am tempted to buy the whole lot second-hand. and you're right, most of them aren't too expensive.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! My toddler loves the Peter and Jane series - although many parents seem to think the books are outdated, the pictures are vivid enough to evoke my toddler's curiosity and comments :)

Be nice to see if Penguin would endeavour to 'update' this series with a more contemporary setting.

Anonymous said...

Wow, a ladybird fan,we have most of their books, the vintage collection and for some reason i cannot bring myself to even look at their new editions..though am sure they are equally good..but you know how it is..and the ladybird itself looks like something out of a comic strip!!I used to love the learning with mother series and we did all the projects there.
So sorry to hear the plant closed down..sigh..nostalgia..nostalgia..

Anonymous said...

Crayon Marks!!!
PLEASE don't ever ever sell them! Not for a million dollars!!