- Nursery Rhymes & Stories
1 The Ladybird Book Of Nursery Rhymes 1943
The Rhyming Stories series begun in 1940 had shown that there was a market for these small childrenıs books and not surprisingly they stayed with a similar formula for Nursery Rhymes & Stories, the second Ladybird series started in March 1941. The plan was to issue themed collections of rhymes as well as the first true Ladybird story books, based on popular fairy tales. Eleven books were produced between 1941 and 1958, before the series was "mothballed".
Many of the titles were however kept in print for many years. Most of the early printings are dated, but frustratingly merely state "Tenth Edition 1960" or similar, so without first editions we cannot be confident when each title was first published. If anyone has first editions for the missing dfates, we'd be pleased to learn them. The rhyming collections are themed. "Bedtime Rhymes" is typical, all based on events (luckier) children of the time might encounter during a typical day, from collecting Blackberries to encounters with the postman. Although some are traditional, others were specially written and all are credited to author Geoffrey Lapage.
In this writerıs opinion the standard of illustrations throughout is much higher than the previous series. Nursery Rhymes for example, is really evocative. Nicely detailed coloured sketches by George Brook, done originally on a ribbed art paper which gives a nice stippled look to the work when reproduced (as many of the early printings were) on high gloss art paper.
The "glossy" editions also featured an attractive inside front and rear cover pattern, in a delicate blue (see illustration above left [htm permitting!] from Sleeping Beauty).
"Tootles The Taxi" has rhymes based around various vehicles children might see during a trip to town, each being given faces in Thomas The Tank Engine style. This particular volume seems to be one of the more sought after by adults who remmeber it from their childhood.
The verses here are by Joyce Clegg, while the fabulous period illustrations are by John Kenny, who illustrated for Ladybird for many years. The nursery stories are amongst the most attractive of all early Ladybird books thanks to their sharply edged wash illustrations by Evelyn Bowmar. The stories were adapted by Muriel Levy, better known to children as Auntie Muriel who worked for BBC Childrenıs Hour.
"The Circus Comes To Town", published in 1957, is another of Kennyıs well illustrated books, albeit done in a more realistic style than Tootles, and accompanying Denis Constandurosı description of a childrenıs visit to the circus. The cover (matt) artwork is more like the familiar Ladybird style. For real obscurists, the DJ cover artwork is different to the actual brown card cover underneath!.
The final book from the early era brings together the Goldilocks and Goldilocks stories, adapted by Gilda Lund and illustrated in a more garish (or cheerful) fashion by J. H. Wingfield, who appears far more at home working on other subjects.
The contrast between this and Evelyn Bowmarıs work couldnıt be greater. The end papers of at least the first half dozen books are also themed to the contents within, rather than being generic Ladybird designs.
In 1978 the series was given a full revamp with the new Yellow Book Of Bedtime Stories. Blue, Red and Green volumes followed, four of the original books (3, 7, 10 and 11) were reissued, some with new covers and illustrations, and the series was further extended during the 1980s with a total of eight titles.