Ladybird books really bring back the golden days of childhood - learning to read, discovering the magic of books, and growing up. It is more than sixty years since the first familiar pocket sized full colour Ladybird saw the light of day in 1940, during the Second World War with an animal series called Bunnikins and all for half a crown.
Ladybird books stayed at half a crown (2 shillings and sixpence = 12 pence today) for thirty years, because the 56 page standardised format (made from just one sheet size 40 inches by 30 inches) meant that quality books could be produced at a low price.
Those books of the 60s were so popular they were even affectionately jeered at. Michael Crawford in 'Some Mothers Do Have 'Em' had a book called 'Learn to Fly with Ladybird'. And one noted politician asked in Parliament, 'Has the Right Honourable Member read the Ladybird Book on Politics? – I know that Ed Milliband reads his every evening and he has got to the stage where his lips no longer move as he reads!
In 1970-71 Wills & Hepworth, the manufacturer's of Ladybird books since 1915, moved to a new site in Loughborough, and the company name finally became Ladybird Books in 1971. Just one year later, the company was taken over by the Pearson Group in 1972, who at that time also owned Longmans, the Financial Times and Westminster Press, as well as diverse interests such as Madame Tussaud's, Royal Doulton (now you can see another Bunnikins link!) and a cross-channel ferry company.
The Learnabout books of the 60s were designed to help children to develop new interests whilst focussing on the factual side and this novel approach brought some unusual results. Notably, the Ladybird book, How it Works: The Motor Car (published in 1965) was used by Thames Valley police driving school as a general guide and today we have some quaint entries from a companion book Your Career in the Police Force: -
In the pages above, we see PC Blenkinsop calling for back up from his Francis Barnett Falcon F150 mounted Pye W15FM/C Westminster radio telephone whilst clearly anunciating his concerns to central despatch - stirring stuff. We hope you are as impressed with the colour plate and incisive informative text as we are and for your further enjoyment, we show below a further two pages from this very interesting book. Ello, ello, ello, what's all this then...........: -