Friends are wonderful people. Friends who turn up on your doorstep unexpectedly on a Saturday evening with a gift for you are even more wonderful. The friend who has made sure that the gift is a pile full of amazing vintage Ladybird books, some of which you've never even seen before, are quite simply the best. It's therefore with huge thanks to Kirsty from Damson Lane that I bright you this week's Ladybird Tuesday – First picture book.
Somehow series 704 (Picture Books) had just completely passed me by until this beauty came into my possession on Saturday. A series of five books they were all written by Ethel Wingfield and illustrated by her husband Harry – probably the most famous couple behind Ladybird books – making this series incredibly popular as a result. Harry was also behind all the artwork for the original Keywords Reading Scheme books (See my Ladybird Tuesday for We Like to Help if you want to see more examples of his work)
The idea behind this picture book series is very simple, but incredibly effective. Each two page spread contains a lovely vintage illustration of something that a child would easily recognise, whilst the page opposite has the word written clearly, all in lower case. Also on the text page are a few prompts for parents to use when talking to their children about the pictures.
The ides behind this series is that they could be used in conjunction with the "Under Five" series – "Learning with Mother" (Book 2 has already featured on Ladybird Tuesday – again featuring Harry Wingfield's illustrations and written by his wife Ethel)
There are quite a few similarities between this book and one called Baby's First Book which I have a glossy covered copy of. The teddy in my photograph above even features on the cover of that book – although with a different coloured bow and a couple of small details being different. Alas, Baby's First Book doesn't contain the helpful prompts for parents which I think is a shame. According to some information I found here this book was a newer version of a previous Ladybird title, but one where quite a lot of things had changed – author, illustrator and some of the contents! The strange thing is that Baby's First Book (first published in 1973 as part of series 413 – Fairy Tales and Rhymes) is credited as being written by Margaret Borrett with illustrations by Harry Woolley and Roy Smith, yet several of the illustrations look identical to ones done by Harry Wingfield in this First Picture Book. The two bananas below for instance.
On the left a picture of a banana from Baby's First Book, on the right a very similar picture from First Picture Book. Supposedly by different artists!
I think I may need to do a bit more reading up on this to get to the bottom of it.
Back to the First Picture Book though. As with so many books of that time (it was first published in 1970) I love looking at what they chose to include in it. Just a list of what was important in a toddler's life then is so different to what would feature if you drew up a similar list today. Again, I prefer the simplicity of life back then though.
Everything was also so much less cluttered, or so it appeared in the books. If you were to paint a picture of our bath you'd end up with the corners covered in an array of bottles of bubble bath, shampoo, conditioner and a variety of other things. The bath itself would be full of plastic toys and there would probably be an alphabet's worth of coloured letters stuck to the tiles around it too! And I wonder why we have so much "stuff" in our house!
If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you're feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday category here on Being Mrs C. Thank you!