Did you love Ladybird books when you were a child? To celebrate its centenary next year, Ladybird (now a Penguin imprint) will publish ‘Ladybird: The Cover Story’ in October.
It will be a compendium of 500 covers featuring some of the most memorable and striking covers from Ladybird archives covering the 1940s to the 1980s. Nicola Bird, who has edited the book, identifies the period of 1950-70 as the “Golden Age of Ladybird”, saying the books reflected “an idealised, prosperous view of Britain through its cheery illustrations”.
The Ladybird imprint was established in 1915 by Wills & Hepworth, a printing company, to publish ‘pure and healthy literature’ for children. They registered a ladybird as a logo – originally an open-winged version of a ladybird- the more familiar one was introduced in the 1950s, with a final update in 2006.
The pocket-sized hardbacks covered a wide range of subject matter with simple text: the company’s motto was ‘a Ladybird book for every subject’ and this seemed to be the case, with amazingly varied topics from timeless stories such as Red Rifing Hood and Jack and thr Beanstalk etc to ‘Colours‘ to ‘Stamp Collecting’, ‘the Great Composers’ to ‘Swinmming and Diving’ and many more.
It was the illustrations which set them apart. They were instantly recognisable, the colours ranging from muted to bright (often they used commercial artists). Nicola Bird writes: “The skill of the artists and the simple but effective cover design is such that these detailed pictures still resonate with us today. The books that contain them are often the very first ones that people remember from their own childhoods.”