Like many of us, Ladybird Books were a big part of my early childhood.
With their simplified depictions of British society and the natural world, they helped inform me about a world that my own experiences dipped in and out of. Yes, they stuck to a naive, middle-class, protected version of the world – which was also my childhood – but they formed the basis of my younger self's understanding of how things worked the way they did from language to science. And their takes on fairy tales didn't sanitise the horrors of Hans Christian Anderson, The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault's tales – as many contemporary children's books did.
Core to the appeal of Ladybird Books was also their beautifully painted illustrations. While still living within the same Pleasantville as the book's narratives, the presented the world as a place to be explored and enjoyed, full of friendly people who want to explain how it all works to you. Again naive, but endearing.
These illustrations were collected earlier this year for a book, Ladybird by Design by Lawrence Zeegan, and an associated free exhibition at the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. The exhibition is now on in London, appearing at the House of Illustration in Granary Square (next to Central Saint Martins, behind King's Cross station) from until September 27 2015.
Artwork: Illustration by Harry Wingfield from Shopping with Mother, 1958. © Ladybird Books
The artworks were created by illustrators well known in their day, including Charles Tunnicliffe (What To Look For), Harry Wingfield (Shopping with Mother and Key Words), Martin Aitchison (Key Words), Eric Winter and Robert Lumley (Well-loved Tales), John Berry (People at Work) and Robert Ayton (Great Inventions and The Story of Oil).
The exhibition opened this weekend and runs until May 10, and Ladybird By Design is out through Ladybird Books on March 5. I'm rather looking forward to both.
Artwork: Illustration by Robert Ayton from The Story of Furniture, 1971. © Ladybird Books
Artwork: Illustration by G Robinson from Things to Make, 1963. © Ladybird Books
Artwork: Illustration by Gerald Whitcomb from Sound and Pictures: Book Four, 1976. © Ladybird Books
Artwork: Illustration by John Berry from The Policeman, 1971. © Ladybird Books
Artwork: Illustration by Robert Ayton from Tricks and Magic, 1969. © Ladybird Books
Artwork: Illustration by Jack Matthew from Flight Two: Canada, 1959. © Ladybird Books
Artwork: Illustration by B Knight from Exploring Space, 1958. © Ladybird Books