Scans of weird pictures from old Ladybird books for children, Part III: the last of them for now. See Part I for background information and the first set of images, and part II with a pair of huge bastards. This picture is posted apropos of nothing in particular except that it evidences a Ballardian relish at the prospect of getting totally fucked up in a horrific car crash and- like the burning guy picture– I would love to own the original painting.
Sadly, nowadays one is unlikely to encounter an image like this in a book intended to help young children learn to read. Never did me any harm. <Watches David Cronenberg’s film version of Crash and laughs uncontrollably/masturbates furiously.> This picture comes from a book most excitingly entitled Danger Men, although many of the masculine activities described therein suggest an alternate title might be more appropriate, perhaps something like Bloody Idiots.
'Danger Men': yes, evidently. Illustration by Frank Humphris, 1970.
More scans of nostalgic strangeness from old Ladybird books for children. See Part I for background information and the first set of images. These ones are from A First ‘Do You Know’ Book, 1971, and it will become obvious that they deal with the concept of largeness. Yes, there were Second and Third ‘Do You Know’ Books as well.
Illustration by Frank Humphris from 'A First Do You Know Book', 1971.
I could explain this image, but I think I’m just going to leave it here for you all to contemplate. All I’ll say is that this gentleman looks very dignified for somebody who’s probably not been able to see his own penis for the past ten years, not even in a mirror. Of course there’s also Mr Creosote. Continue Reading
This week I’m posting some strange, lovely scans from old Ladybird books for children. For most British people who started school at any time between the 1940s and the beginning of the 1980s these will need little introduction, because they’ll be familiar and fondly remembered either from their own homes or from the school library. For all those people who didn’t grow up on this weird little island between the end of World War II and the murder by Thatcherite politics and Reaganomics of what one might call Ladybird values, Ladybird was a publisher of slim hardbacked books intended to help children learn to read, and in a more general sense to instil a peculiarly British (and sometimes just plain peculiar) sense of the world having invariable rules of order, decency, progress and rationalism, of everything being OK and under control and British.
As time went on parents were sometimes depicted changing with the times. Mummy began to step out of the house without wearing a hat, eventually (my goodness!) even leaving the house to work at her job; new occupations and possibilities in general were acknowledged; in a stoic, stiff upper lip and fuss-free way British children of immigrants slipped in unannounced to play happily with the default white children. But otherwise the Ladybird design, typography, ethos and aesthetic remained remarkably unaltered through all the decades they were published, especially considering that their temporal range encompassed the Blitz, the Swinging Sixties, disco, punk and the silicon chip. Even the paper these books were printed on seemed to be unlike any other and never seemed to change.
While this may all seem very nostalgic, I must also admit that I only recall a peripheral engagement with these books when I was a child, mainly via my younger brothers rather than on my own behalf. I myself was a freakish Midwich Cuckoo of a child who was already far too advanced a reader at Ladybird’s target age to have any need of such simplified and overtly didactic texts. Not a brag really because pretty much all of my peers hated me for it and unlike my fictional counterparts I couldn’t even make dimwitted, barely literate classmates die just by thinking about it.
From ‘James I and the Gunpowder Plot’ 1967, illustration by John Kenney.