Spoof Ladybird book creator Miriam Elia accuses Penguin of ripping off her idea

Artist Miriam Elia has take a swipe at Penguin after the publisher released spoof Ladybird books, following getting her to stop selling hers.


Miriam Elia isn't happy with Penguin. Last year she released a parody of Ladybird Books that used the simplified world of the much-loved series to make some barbed satirical points about both modern art and the ethics of how authors portray the world when reducing its complexity for children.

Ladybird-owner Penguin threatened Miriam with legal action, so she stopped selling the book – instead giving them away to people who bought other works – and created a version with all of the trademarks and identical names removed, releasing it as a Dung Beetle book.

Since then Penguin has released its own spoof series – aiming at the more obvous targets of hipsters, hangovers and dating – and, in response, Miriam has created a new artwork called We sue an artist, the Dung Beetle guide to Corporate Intimidation, for ages 5+.

To reinforce her point, Miriam has included a hand-drawn version of the Penguin logo behind the central figure.

Read on to find out more about We Go To The Gallery.

We Go To The Gallery is a spot-on parody of Ladybird Books that sees Mummy and children John and Susan exploring conceptual art.

It's humour comes from the juxtaposition of the conventions of the simplified world presented in classic children's books with those of modern art. The commercialisation of modern art has – ironically – formalised the way art and artists are presented and discussed, and We Go To The Gallery mocks this as much as it does the way that kids' books can dumb down the way society and technology works too much.

In We Go To The Gallery, the children and their mother visit a modern art gallery. The children ask trite questions and their mother responds with art world cliches. The end result rides that line between disturbing and funny we saw recently in Richard Littler's Discovering Scarfolk.

Updated July 27 with more spreads from the book.


RCA-trained Miriam Elia originally created the book with her brother Ezra a 1,000-run limited edition – but Miriam was told to stop selling them by Ladybird Books-owner Penguin (as some of the works were collages built from elements within actual Ladybird books, and it featured the Penguin logo).

Miriam redesigned those artworks and removed the logo, and released a 5,000-run edition in July 2014.

Image: The eternal call-and-response between those underwhelmed by modern art and its defenders.

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Unlike those limited editions, the new edition of We Go To The Gallery is available for a mere £8.99 from September 21.

We Go To The Gallery is now funny and cheap, which means that families on lower incomes can now benefit from its teachings, and need only starve their child for three short days in order to afford a copy,” says a statement Miriam and Ezra Elia.

Image: A knowing reference to Richard Wilson's 20:50.


Image: A nice bit of mocking of Jeff Koons and the prices people pay for his artworks.


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Kindle and iPad editions will follow in October, as will follow-up books later in the year to cash in on the Christmas book trade.