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The Ladybird Story: Children's Books for Everyone

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Ladybird Story: Children's Books for Everyone.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Lorraine Johnson(Author) Brian Alderson(Author)

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It is not widely known that 2014 marks the centenary of the publication of books in "The Ladybird Series" by the British commercial printers Wills & Hepworth. From the start of the First World War to the start of the Second they published about 100 cheap and cheerful colour-illustrated children's books for the popular market, but only in 1940 did they fashion Bunnykins Picnic Party which was to be the first of the Ladybird Books that would come to be recognised and bought by most of the British population. Lorraine Johnson and Brian Alderson trace the history of the Ladybird venture from its wobbly beginning through Wills & Hepworth's triumphant management of the series up to its sale in 1972, with further chapters on the last decades at the printworks in Loughborough down to 1999. A comprehensive bibliography of books edited under the Wills & Hepworth imprint gives ample evidence of their catering for children at all stages of development, a central element in the millions of books that they sold. The many illustrations, mostly in colour, give convincing support to the reasons for their popularity.

Brian Alderson has written many articles and monographs on the history of children's books, most recently a study (with Andrea Immel) of the first English nursery rhyme book, Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (2013); (with Felix de Marez Oyens) Be Merry & Wise: Children's Books in Britain before 1850 (2006); and Edward Ardizzone: A Bibliographic Commentary (2003). Lorraine Johnson gained a doctorate with her thesis on the history of Ladybird Books.

3.2 (9132)
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Printable? Yes

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Review Text

  • By Kirky on 24 February 2015

    You can tell that this book started life as an academic dissertation. It's incredibly detailed, precise, well researched and well written. Beautifully produced too - although a few more covers and classic Ladybird pics wouldn't have gone amiss. On the downside it does get a little dry in parts and the sentences are often so long and complicated that the narrative can be difficult to follow. Watch out for the excellent BBC4 documentary on Ladybird which perhaps has the brio this book lacks.

  • By Book Beaver on 1 October 2014

    This is a most detailed and informative history of Ladybird Books. It incorporates 160 colour illustrations and a detailed appendix of published titles. A strength of the book is that it compares and contrasts Ladybirds with other contemporary titles that covered the same territory and it covers in considerable detail the predecessors of the familiar two shilling and sixpence titles (a price maintained for 29 years) which were very different in appearance.However there appear to be some omissions which could easily have been avoided. In the appendix of Ladybird titles the Discovery range which appeared in the 1990's and covered such titles as Sharks, Religions of the World and Planets is inexplicably absent.The wonderful range of illustrations include far too few actual Ladybird book covers and far less actual illustrations from this iconic range of books than one would have expected. For example there is only one illustration by C F Tunnicliffe from almost 100 that he painted for the four volumes of What to Look For Books. There are very few pages from actual books and one picture is worth a whole page of words. However in mentioning words it would have been most interesting to have compared the texts of books that were modernised, such as titles in the History series, and shown how comments that were once considered quite suitable had to be re-written into a more acceptable version.Very few illustrations are included which show how illustrations are updated - various websites and magazine articles have demonstrated this over the years to great effect. Additionally, the opportunity to show how a title such as Nelson appeared initially with a dustjacket, then appeared in identical format with matt boards, then appeared with blue-framed boards and finally with a different picture in a laminated version has not been adopted. As Ladybird was such a significant pictorial series and its ilustrations are what most readers remember the series for. it is disappointing that the two authors did not include more Ladybird artwork and consider the design of their book more thoughtfully.The authors, perhaps, not surprisingly are unable to decide why Ladybird Books are now a shadow of their former glory but to their credit they have used an extremely comprehensive range of sources. As more than twenty sources are websites it is strange that they did not use some of the illustrative methods that these sites have used so effectively.The authors do not hesitate to be critical and comment on how various series peter out, some individual title series were deserving of more examples and how books in a series often forged no relationships between themselves.Even in a series (Animal Tales) in which the first ten books had the same author and artist the authors inexcusably refer to Noel Barr with the masculine pronoun (the author was actually Dorothy Noel Barrow) and criticise the quality of the writing of a very popular series and the fact that the tenth book had one less page of text! As this reviewer's copy of the book in question (The Sleepy Water Vole) has the same number of pages of text as the other nine books in the series (and one more than the number quoted), one can only presume that the authors used a reference a copy that was mutilated from a car boot sale or charity shop!They are very critical of the 'Uncle Mac' series and state that they have no coherent shape and they are referred to as spatchcock work.In conclusion, this is a worthwhile book but the various errors and disappointing design mean that the definitive Ladybook Story is still to be told.

  • By Lucy Trainer on 2 April 2015

    It's not a light read, there are a few inaccuracies, omissions and distortions but ... the depth of the research and conviction of the writers make up for this and make it a fascinating read for anyone really interested in the topic. A really helpful contribution to the subject - its main strength being to site the development of Ladybird into the wider perspective of children's literature of the day.

  • By Briony on 30 September 2014

    A very interesting read, the only book of it's kind to explore the 40 years of ladybird books, I found it very informative and the pictures were great. Having been brought up with Ladybird books it's very interesting to read about the history.

  • By Karen McIntyre on 6 September 2015

    Very interesting and informative. More illustrations would have been good . Well pleased.

  • By joobie1canoobie on 4 June 2015

    This was a present and the recipient was very pleased and found it very interesting.

  • By j daggett on 17 June 2015

    Wonderful book on the history of ladybird books.


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