Thursday 16 August 2012

The impatient horse one of the rarest Ladybird books?

The Impatient horse story by George Murray and illustrations by Xenia Berkeley. Ladybird Series 538.
Can you imagine my delight when I spotted this at a recent antique’s fair? Previously, I’d only seen pictures in the Bookfinder magazine and on the internet.

The Weeweb Ladybird site goes so far as to count it among the 'rarest of the rare' and states “This is a true collector's item to any Ladybird enthusiast with first editions swapping hands for "£100+."

This copy is a third edition published in 1955 complete with dust jacket. I like Ladybird books and have a few in my collection, but I’ve decided to sell this one. It’s not one I had as a child so it’s not really one I want to keep, although it’s very pretty, and I’m tempted! 

The cover is quite muted and very different from most Ladybird books, but as soon as you turn to the first page, you find the familiar bright and beautiful colour illustrations. 

It’s a super story; 
getting bored waiting for the milkman to drink his tea Mary and John end up riding off with Horace the impatient horse and the milkman’s milk float! Together they succeed in winning a race, help to put out a fire and win ‘best horse’ in an army parade. They eventually find their way back home just as the milkman is finishing his tea. All the milk is lost but the prizes and accolades make up for it, and Horace’s reward is an early retirement.  

The Impatient horse; story by George Murray and illustrations by Xenia Berkeley. Ladybird Series 538.

Have you got a favourite Ladybird book? Do you collect Ladybird books? 


  1. I don't recall books sounding so intriguing when I were a lad. Yet I have read some good ones of late.
    May I suggest you check out the 'Little House on the Prairie' series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  2. Lucky Duck! I'm a wee bit jealous.

    I don't collect Ladybird books but I have them, I pick them up from time to time.

    If I owned this one, I'd sleep with it under my pillow.

  3. Barbara, what wonderful news! And I'm sure someone is out there looking for just this book.

  4. barbaraannefisher17 August 2012 at 12:05

    Hi Percy, you may indeed! Little house on the Prairie has been on my must-read list for ages, thanks for the reminder.
    Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?

  5. barbaraannefisher17 August 2012 at 12:07

    Hi Michelle, you have a way of making me laugh!
    You know how jealous I am of all your collections so can I be allowed to feel a little smug – just for a while???
    You have no idea how tempted I am to squirrel this one away – if it doesn't sell in the next couple of weeks it just might make its way onto ‘my’ shelf.

  6. barbaraannefisher17 August 2012 at 12:09

    I hope so Donna, but then, on the other hand – I really don’t mind keeping it for a while. I’ve sort of fallen in love with it!

  7. Such an exciting find Barbara. If only I had a spare $250!
    The illustrations intrigue me, they are nothing like the illustrations in the Ladybirds I've got - even the oldest ones.

  8. barbaraannefisher17 August 2012 at 12:27

    Hi Kylie, it’s really very different and as I understand it it's the only book in the series. Not sure why Ladybird decided to start a new series (538) for one book, but I suppose it makes it more interesting to a collector. $250 sounds so much more than £125 but I am open to offers!

  9. What a wonderful find! Things like that are always so exciting. My favorite book from early childhood was The Pokey Little Puppy, I suppose because I was a pokey little girl. Confession: I have never read the Little House on the Prairie books either.

  10. Alas no. I wasn't into reading much as a kid, more Dinky toys or outside playing. My favourite author now is the late Eric Frank Russell (WASP) etc. Into book ten, at present, of the L.H. on the Prairie and finding the places named on 'Google Earth' adds to the interest. Don't get much work done................Ho Hum!

  11. What a great find! I, like you, would want to hold on to it for awhile. Relish this little treasure as your own for a bit!

  12. The Desert Rocks17 August 2012 at 17:05

    What a cute story. Too bad adult books don't have such wonderful plots. I wonder though what a kid thought about early retirement? Beautiful pictures and thanks for sharing it.

  13. This is a wonderful find Barbara and the most unusual and interesting LB book that I have seen. If the cover did not have Ladybird written on it I would never have believed it was one. I was wondering if Kylie had it in her fabulous collection so I was curious to see what comment she would leave. It is interesting to discover what books are considered especially valuable now. Its a bit like the LGB I still hanker after but can't afford when I do find a copy on offer somewhere!

  14. barbaraannefisher18 August 2012 at 06:55

    I only came across the pokey little puppy after I became a book seller, but it’s easy to see why it was your favourite – it’s a lovely book. I’ve been intending to read ‘the little house’ books for ages, and now I really must!

  15. barbaraannefisher18 August 2012 at 07:08

    Oh I am! I’ve listed it for sale, but it’s not made it to a shelf yet its still sitting on my desk where I can look at it from time to time. It’s starting to feel a lot like a ‘keeper’.

  16. barbaraannefisher18 August 2012 at 07:33

    I look for ‘that’ LGB book everywhere I go – but no luck – yet!
    I’m sure any other Ladybird book would have been snapped up long before I arrived, but you’re right this one doesn't look (or feel) much like a Ladybird book (until you open it). The other odd thing is it has a series code all of its own I assume there must have been other books planned for the series, but for some reason, they didn't get published. It makes me think it can’t have been very popular, but the fact that it made it to a third printing rather rules that out. All very strange!

  17. barbaraannefisher18 August 2012 at 08:06

    It does seem like an odd thing to mention in a child’s book, maybe the author couldn’t think of a better ending!

  18. My neice & I were sorting through a stack of Ladybird books earlier... I'm about to have my tea but will leave this window open and come back later with what we've got here.

  19. barbaraannefisher19 August 2012 at 18:51

    Hi Nikki-ann, how exciting! If you want me to give you information/prices it might be easier if you email me at books(at)march house books. com - no spaces and the normal @ Barbara

  20. Ok, so here are the Ladybird books we've got:

    Dennis the Dragon (1980) - My brother's book, but one of my favourites!
    Read It Yourself: William Tell (1979)
    Song Birds (1974)
    British Wild Animals (1958)
    Brilliant Little Elephant (1997)
    Trains (1974)
    A First Ladybird Book of Nursery Rhymes (1965)
    Wild Life in Britain (1972)
    Teeth (1978)
    Big Animals (1975)
    Disappearing Mammals (1973)
    A Second Ladybird Keywords Picture Dictionary and Spelling Book (1966)
    Living Things (1975)
    The Ladybird Book of British Wild Flowers (1957)
    'How it works' The Motor Cycle (1968)

    We've a few more too, but I'm not quite sure where they are!

  21. barbaraannefisher19 August 2012 at 21:34

    Hi Nikki, thanks for the list and your email. I've just sent you an reply with some notes on value and some links you might like to explore. Barbara

  22. What an absolute find! How exciting. I loved learning more about the book and it was great to get a look at some of the pictures! I have only ever seen Ladybird books on the computer- but they are wonderful.

  23. barbaraannefisher22 August 2012 at 08:05

    It’s not often I find something so special but when I do it’s a real thrill. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the pictures and learning about Ladybird books. Thanks for calling in.

  24. What a terrific find. I love finding gems while scouting for books. Congratulations!

  25. The pictures are bright and infectious (I love the smile on the girl with the blond hair). So happy that you found this 'rarest of the rare,' Barbara! As I am not a collector (though I remember reading some Ladybird books), I can only imagine your thrill when you came upon this one.

  26. barbaraannefisher25 August 2012 at 15:29

    I totally agree with you Claudine, just looking at the pictures makes me happy! I was thrilled beyond measure to see it sitting there waiting for me.

  27. I can certainly see why.

  28. My blog is being really difficult about posting comments at the moment!
    This was left by Robin

    thanks for sharing.

    Robin, thank you very much for calling in and leaving a comment - I have no idea why it won't post here but I did get your email. Thank you, Barbara


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Barbara xx