Sunday, 29 April 2012

Book of the week; The Bluebell Story Book

The Bluebell Story Book

One of a series of books published by Blackie & Son in the 1930s. The front cover illustration and endpapers are by Cicely Mary Barker. Colour frontis by Mabel Lucie Attwell and numerous black-and-white  illustrations by Helen Jacobs, Ruth Cobb and Rosa C Petherick. Hardback book with 36 pages. First story the sick doll's diary, other stories include kind teddy and nanny and the circus. Presentation plate on front pastedown - ‘Edinburgh Galloway Association prize for excellence in class work awarded to Doris Dowdney, 1st July 1932'. Can you imagine how excited Doris must have been when she was awarded this lovely book?

Spring has officially arrived in the UK, and woodlands are already carpeted in cobalt blue. The bluebell season is fleeting so if you don’t want to miss seeing these lovely flowers pay a trip to the Woodland Trust website which has the world’s largest bluebell database.

My hundred thousand bells of blue, the splendour of the spring, they carpet all the woods anew with royalty of sapphire hue; The Primrose is the Queen, 't is true, but surely I am King! Ah yes, the peerless woodland King! From The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker.

This pretty bluebell postcard is illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell; God must have known how sad it would be for a little child in a garden fair, to wander through its walks and ways and never to touch a flower there - and so he planted his woods about - with flowers for the little ones - everywhere!

Do bluebells grow in your part of the world?

Sharon from Sharon’s Sunlit Memories has written a lovely post about another book published by Blackie, possibly from the same series as The Bluebell Story book. Sharon’s book is called “How Nice!” but it’s much more than nice – it’s beautiful. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A second helping of Ptarmigan pie

Back in May 2011, I featured an article entitled Searching for Ptarmigan Pie by Alastair Glegg. A very good copy of Ptarmigan pie just came into stock so it feels like an opportune moment to re-introduce Alastair’s article.

In the spring of 1939, as the storm clouds of war were gathering over Europe, a young couple celebrated their engagement by taking a climbing holiday on the Isle of Skye. Donal Lindsay Glegg was 28, and just beginning to make a name for himself as a landscape painter and illustrator. Mabel Glenny, a year older, was a medical doctor working at the Bristol Infirmary. Both were experienced mountaineers and loved the challenges set by the dark jagged peaks of the Cuillins, but in those days finding accommodation could be a problem. They had spent previous Highland holidays in tents and caravans, and there were always places which provided board and lodging for climbers, but they had a dream of finding a little place of their own to use as a base for what they hoped would be many years of visits to Scotland Read more

© Alastair Glegg. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without the author's permission.

Ptarmigan pie is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Vintage Ladybird books

The slim volumes that have helped children enjoy reading for close on a century are now collectors’ items with huge nostalgic value, says Katherine Higgins.

When I was five, I didn’t much care for collecting… I just wanted to be Rapunzel. When my mother turned the pages of the 14th book in Ladybird’s ‘Well-Loved Tales’ series, my fantasy sparked to life. The mismatch between Eric Winter’s watercolour of Rapunzel’s flowing golden hair and my own short curls mattered not – I was mesmerised. Tale told, I was hungry for more and Ladybird was ready to oblige with a run of colourful fiction and absorbing fact. Those who bought into Ladybird for half a crown (there was no price increase for 30 years) knew exactly what they were getting – squeaky clean, accurate content and fabulous artwork in a perfect-for-small-hands cover.

I was brought up on Ladybird books – surely they’re not worth anything now? ‘So many people who had Ladybirds as children want to take a trip down memory lane and  re-read them,’ says Robert Mullin, a collector who is researching the entire Ladybird output on his website The Wee Web. Nostalgia has certainly moved the market substantially in a decade. You can still join in with a few pounds but expect to part with £250 or more for a first edition or rarity.  

So which ones am I hoping to find in the attic? 
In terms of collectability, it’s anything from the books of the 1940s until the introduction of shiny, laminated covers (from 1983) that sparks interest. If you could dust down a first edition copy of The Impatient Horse, you’d be laughing. Equally sought-after is the 1964Cinderella (from the 606d series), which costs around £200 with dust jacket. These unite two interest groups – those who seek out true rarities (The Impatient Horse ran to only three editions) and those who are driven by memories. ‘The 606d Cinderella has gained its high price tag by dint of being so much loved, rather than through being rare – such is the power of nostalgia,’ says self-confessed Ladybird addict Helen Day, who is behind the website Ladybird Fly Away Home. Keep an eye out too for the six Adventures of Wonk from the 1940s, each with Joan Kiddell-Monroe’s free-flowing illustrations of a little koala bear. Few and far between, a first edition in a good state with dust jacket now costs £100-plus. 

Hmmm, my collection is more Rumpelstiltskin and Goldilocks – are they worth anything?  
Those who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies have a soft spot for the ‘Well Loved Tales’ series because they comforted at bedtime and helped us to read, with their grading system from level 1 (The Three Little Pigs) to level 3 (Beauty and the Beast). Millions were sold in countless editions.Cinderella, the first, was the only title issued with a dust jacket. Subsequent tales were sandwiched between matt pictorial boards. The key to value is how far down the edition and condition chain they go. An average late-print run copy of any of these titles would start at around £10-£20, providing there’s no extra felt-tip colouring!

How did these books come about and when?
The firm behind Ladybird was printer/stationer Wills & Hepworth. Its first foray into children’s literature during World War I was a sideline to keep the printing presses turning. The resulting titles (like Tiny Tot’s Travels), which carried an open-winged Ladybird logo (registered in 1915), were large annual-size productions with three-colour illustrations. But the real beginning of Ladybird as we know it came with the advent of World War II, when it made a second foray into children’s titles. The first three appeared in 1940: Bunnykin’s Picnic Party, The First Day of the Holidays and Ginger’s Adventures, all with their signature small size (7 x 4.75in) and standard format: 52 pages fitted exactly on to one printing sheet - a bonus when paper was restricted. 

Were they a success?
They were but the two shillings and six pence price tag, equivalent to half the weekly cost of an average household’s coal, put those first books beyond pocket-money reach. In the 1950s, the focus shifted when Douglas Keen introduced  a range of thoroughly researched educational  titles (such as The Book of British Birds and Their Nests, series 536, 1953), commissioned from specialist authors and illustrators, including  CF Tunnicliffe and Frank Hampson – known for his Eagle comic illustrations. Success was sealed with the Ladybird Reading Scheme (produced from 1964), which was a collaboration with the literacy specialist William Murray. This series gave many Britons learning to read a helping hand in the form of Peter and Jane’s family life.

How can I spot a first edition?
There are dozens of pointers. For starters, you need to establish the publication date. Don’t be misled by the ‘first published’ date on the title page: this does not guarantee your copy is a first edition. Key dates will help you – for instance, in 1961, the Ladybird logo changed from an open-winged flying ladybird to the plan view that’s more familiar. In 1965, dust jackets were abandoned in favour of matt board covers. If there’s a pre-decimal price printed on a matt board cover, it must have been issued between 1965-70 (after which the price appeared as 12p). 

Is there anything else I should look for?
The ‘How it Works’ series (654) is revered for its ability to dissect complex science into easily understandable facts for children. That said, some titles did in fact find their way into adult hands. Thames Valley Police realised the instructional benefits of The Motor Car(1965), using it for driver training, while Avis car hire ordered a bespoke version with a grown-up cover (much sought-after today).
ICL salesmen were encouraged to study The Computer (1971) and a copy of the 1979 revised edition found its way into the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) library. It remains to be seen who will be the first to find a copy of the ‘holy grail’ of Ladybirds (if it still exists, as none are known to) – a special run of the 1971 version for the Ministry of Defence. ‘Approximately 100 copies were produced with special covers so they didn’t look like children’s books,’ recalls Douglas Keen.

Find out more
* Ladybird Index of UK First Editions available by email from

I hope you've enjoyed this article reproduced by kind permission of Homes & Antiques Magazine

I've always liked these little books with their lovely illustrations. Do they appeal to you?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

How to Learn About Book Illustration

Whether you’re a dabbler in drawing or already have a hefty portfolio, entering the illustration world can seem daunting. Like most art careers, you don’t just show up for a job interview hoping to land your life-long job; the best you can do is hope to get a foot in the door.Thankfully, though, book illustration is a vocation that can be enjoyed at any scale, from a hobby to a full-time career. Here are some steps you can take to learn more about the skills of illustration and the industry.

Take a Course (or Get a Degree)

Depending on your level of interest in illustration, pursuing a single course or a full illustration degree could be a good bet for you. If you already have a degree or just want to get your feet wet, art colleges and university extension programs often open up single courses to non-degree seeking students. Here you’ll have a chance to study the principles of illustration in-depth. Single courses may discuss topics like technique, visual perception, figure drawing, materials, human anatomy, and portfolio development. Bachelor’s and graduate degrees in illustration cover all this and more, through studio art and art theory classes. Guide to Online Schools has more information about art degree programs.

Read Books & Learn the Process

If you’re not ready for the commitment of going back to school, you can always work on your own illustration skills at home. Books like the Fundamentals of Illustration and The Illustrator’s Bible are great texts to read through and refer back to as you work on your illustrations. Those searching for their own unique style can refer to The Big Book of Illustration Ideas for inspiration. While the former books cover important techniques and materials, the latter book has examples of illustrations used in many types of publications.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Those that want to take illustrating from a hobby to a job will need to develop a strong portfolio of work. This portfolio should be unique but also demonstrate that you have mastered a number of techniques. Draw from real life, photos, and what you envision in your head. You should compile a traditional portfolio and consider putting your work online, where it is more easily viewed by a wider audience. Just make sure your website is professional looking and easy to navigate so it doesn't do your work a disservice.


Most illustrators are freelancers, and they work on a serial array of projects. You’ll have more luck finding work if you put your networking skills into action. Attend shows, conferences, and job fairs; these are typically held at art colleges. Art directors and others are more likely to take a chance on you if they meet you in person and shake your hand, and if they get a sense that you’ll be a pleasure to work with.

Join Professional Groups

Depending on the type of illustration you’re into, there may be a professional group out there supporting and catering to illustrators of your stripe. There’s the more general Society of Illustrators and the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators. Other illustration areas such as architecture and fashion illustration also have their own professional groups. These groups can make you aware of job opportunities and news in the industry; they also often give out prizes and awards.

Arty Shark
Bear Skin Rug

Monday, 16 April 2012

Vintage Alphabet Books; Pretty as a Picture

A Fairyland Alphabet (published 1984) beautifully illustrated by Alan Baker. A is for Archway to Fairyland gay; B is for butterflies showing the way; C is the castle the queen reigns over; D is the dew that's brought from the clover...

ABC Fairyland (Published 1940) illustrated by Eulalie Banks. E is for Elfin a merry little fellow; F is for fairy with hair so soft and yellow, G is for the busy gnomes who hunt for hidden treasure; H is for the happy song they sing in fullest measure...

The ABC Book (undated c1960) by Margery Colman. I is for ironing, take care not to scorch; J is for jolly sailor man, home from the sea; K is for cows kicking the poor dairy maid; L is for lost, but soon found again... 

Old Aunt Elspa's ABC (1978 facsimile of the original 1884 edition) by Joseph Crawhall. M for mischief and monkey, mend, manners and map; N for nosy and naughty, nest, nursery and nap; O for an ogre, owl, orange and Oak; P for proboscis, Pry, Pull and Poke.  

Peter Pan's A.B.C (published 1913) illustrated by Flora White. Q for the quarter-deck, solid and roomy, where Hook walked alone and exceedingly gloomy; R for Redskins who mostly have passed all their lives, in making their wigwams and whetting their knives; S is for Smee: here the Bo'sun is seen, very busy at work with his sewing-machine; T for the tree tops where Wendy and Peter, lived happily - nothing on earth could be sweeter...  

A.B.C pictures and stories (undated c1960s) illustrated by G. H. Higham. U Ann saw a Unicorn on the inn-sign, and Bobby spied the Union Jack on the church-tower; V Ann saw some vegetables outside the shop. Bobby was very sharp, for he noticed vinegar and a vase; W towards the end of their walk, the children passed through a timber-yard. I can see Wood said Ann, I can see a window and a windmill said Bobby; X is difficult to find, but their clever dog found one all by himself (see last picture above).

The children's own ABC book (undated c1950s) illustrated by Jeanne Farrar. Y is for yawn! Z is for Zebra crossing.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Spoofy by Anthony Holt

This is a departure from my usual vintage children’s book posts because I want to share this remarkable story with you.

"Spoofy" is a new and unique book centred on a tough, lovable, crafty and irrepressible black Labrador who has been a street wise survivor since his birth on a bush farm in rural New South Wales.

In 1971 Spoofy's latest owners must leave for two years in England. With uncanny perception the dog seems to become aware that he will need a new home. He resolves this by attaching himself to a family newly arrived from Dorset, who have left behind their own Cornish born Border Collie, following the Author's appointment to a helicopter squadron in the small Australian Fleet Air Arm.

The flying and adjustment to Australia each bring their own problems and excitement but Spoofy is always there, as companion, supporter, guardian, as well as collaborator and sidekick to the family's toddler daughter - and firm opponent of the landlady. The story is woven with aerial drama, snakes, spiders and other wildlife in a vivid depiction of 'real' Australia, as well as larger than life characters carved from the history of the outback.

This true and often hilarious account also has pioneer Aussie Mr Booth, and the drama of life in a distant, tiny, close knit hard working and hard playing community.

“Spoofy” is a wonderful book, sad, funny and truly heart-warming.  I simply cannot recommend it highly enough. I loved it, and I’m sure you will too.

Published by Pegasus - Vanguard in illustrated paperback available from Amazon

Anthony Holt will be signing copies of Spoofy at Waterstones, Bridport on Saturday, April 29th 2012. Why not call in, say hello and while you're there treat yourself to a copy of this unputdownable book.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Book of the week; Two from a teapot

Two from a teapot written and illustrated by Racey Helps.
Few mice live in Honey Dell, but two do - Miss Tippee and Miss Toppee. This is the tale of how Miss Tippee and Miss Toppee find a permanent home in a teapot.

Each time I look at the cover of this pretty book I think about;

An arrangement of flowers on a red check tablecloth ~

~ Cupcakes ~ 

~ and a nice cup of tea from a pretty teapot ~

This 'Dainty Teas' postcard is also by Racy Helps.

Two more pictures from Two from a teapot - enjoy!

Do you drink tea and eat cakes when you read? I do it all the time!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Added Value; Things found in books - Artist who said Pooh to a fortune

Newspaper cutting; Saturday spot by Benny Green dated 12th May, 1979.

Who is the most popular British artist of the Twentieth century? Not the trendiest, or the most successful, or the richest, or the best, but the most popular. If you were to conduct a census to find out whose drawings are in the most homes in this country, you would quickly discover that it was no race.

The winner by an enormous margin would be a gentleman called Ernest Howard Shepard, who died in 1976 at the age of 97. He may not be known by name to many of the people who enjoy his work, but his actual drawings are as instantly recognisable as pillar boxes or thunder and lightning.

Twice in his life Shepard struck gold, once when he was hired to illustrated the Winnie the Pooh stories, and again when he did the same for Toad of Toad Hall and his friends.I believe that Pooh in particular needed Shepard because without the drawings, some of the tales tended to get a bit sickly-wickly.

The world, of course, had its revenge by taking hold of some of the Christopher Robin poems and changing them into recitations which would raise a blush in a Rugby League after-match communal bath. And yet there must be something about those little rhymes.

It is interesting that one of the most popular of all the Muppet recordings is the one where Kermit sings that curious little song about sitting halfway up or half-way down the stairs.

Before he died, Shepard performed a charitable deed of pure saintliness. By the time he reached 90, he had amassed more than 300 original sketches of his animal friends, and when I say that one of them changed hands for nearly £2,000, you don't have to be Albert Einstein to realise that the old boy was sitting on a gold mine. However, when you get as old as that, sitting on a gold mine, or indeed sitting on anything at all, can be very uncomfortable, so Shepard, instead of flogging his life's work, donated everything to the nation.

This week at the Holburne Museum in Bath, that work goes on public exhibition, including several of the drawings he did to illustrate his own book of childhood memories, which brings me to a new point.
In that autobiography, "Drawn from memory," there is a sketch of some firemen on a horse-drawn engine dashing to put out a great blaze. This turned out to be the famous fire at Whiteley's department store in Westbourne Grove, which took place in 1886. That drawing of the firemen and the horses, which is really very good, was done by Shepard at the time, which means that he was then seven years old!

The article goes on to talk about the Disney films and spin-offs and ends by reminding us that Tigger claims to be able to climb trees, eat acorns, swallow thistles, swim rivers, and do all sorts of things he can't really do at all!

It's interesting to note that when this piece was written Ernest Shepard's work was selling for a couple of thousand pounds.  While in more recent times, original drawings have realised record prices, especially those of Winnie the Pooh which now sell for tens of thousands of pounds.

Found in; Darkie the life story of a pony published by Country Life in 1950.

***Please note*** the exhibition mentioned in the newspaper article took place in May 1979. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Whisk Away on a Sunbeam and other bits and bobs

There are a few things I've been wanting to share with you;

First and foremost - Sharon from Sharon's Sunlit Memories has award my blog a Sunbeam award. This is a super award because the recipient isn't required to do anything. You don’t even have to say thank you if you don’t want to – but of course, I do. Thank you Sharon. The very first "Little Sunbeam" went to Diane at Always Crave CuteSharon & Diane's blogs are beautiful so a visit to both is a must!

I hope this next item will be of help to lots of you. I get numerous requests from people looking for titles of long lost books. I’m always happy to help and often recognise the book – but not always. That’s when this website comes in handy It’s an excellent resource where you post a vague description of the book and get lots of people trying to come up with the title. The people that use the forum have a wealth of knowledge, and usually someone knows something! Loganberry Books also has a stump the bookseller section that is always fun to peruse. ted books so you could easily find what you're looking for.

Now if you are having trouble sleeping this could be just the thing for you. I was contacted by Grandpa Beasley recently and having promised to mention him on my bog, I promptly forgot all about it. It was only while looking for something else that I came across the note.  Grandpa has recorded excerpts from vintage children’s stories to help Gramma Beesley (and us) drift off to sleep. Grampa really does have the most relaxing voice and his story telling is quite beautiful.

Finally I want to mention Pinterest. I’m sure lots of you have been pinning away for ages, but it’s all very new and exciting to me. Because it is new to me, I've been trying to find out more and thought it would be nice to share some helpful links. I really don’t know very much about it yet so please don’t ask me any ‘technical' questions.
What is Pinterest? 
Birds on the Blog
Everything You Need to Know About Pinterest - the ultimate Pinterest guide

I've noticed several blogs holding 'Pinterest hops', but I've yet to work out how to join in - so if you know - do tell. 

The pictures used in this post are from Whisk away on a Sunbeam by Olive Beaupre Miller. 
I'm going to pin some of them on Pinterest now!

And finally - this is our little sunbeam - Zoe Rose;

the picture on the left was taken at the Adelaide Zoo a week ago. The Easter Bunny picture was taken today. Facebook is wonderful for sharing family ‘photos when the family live on the other side of the world – as ours do.  Zoe Rose is our beautiful 14 month-old granddaughter. We also have two wonderful grown-up grandsons, so we feel very blessed.

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