587 the Flight Series

1 Flight One: Australia
2 Flight Two: Canada
3 Flight Three: USA
4 Flight Four: India
5 Flight Five: Africa
6 Flight Six: The Holy Land

In a time when air travel is seen as just another mode of transport, it's worth remembering that back in the late fifties it was seen as something beyond the reach of many people. When these books were first published, they really would have seemed like "adventures" to most young readers. Judging by the amount of copies which turn up, Ladybird had a real success with the titles, released over a period of four years from 1959 to 1962. They are also well remembered by just about anyone who read them back in the early sixties. All six were nicely illustrated by Jack Matthew (the covers are particularly memorable images), and written by David Scott Daniell.

The format of each book was very similar, and took the form of a travel novel, carefully written to cover as many points of interest as possible. History, wildlife, land-marks and customs were all covered as the two children travelled far and wide. The end covers of each book featured a map of the aircraft's route, while the title page had the coat of arms of the country in question.

Ladybird Books are far more than educational books, they serve as written "time capsules", capturing the knowledge, beliefs and social values of the period. Whilst some editions were repressed for many years, there is little likelihood that the "Flight" series will see the light of day once more! According to Ladybird, the world was free from such ills as civil unrest, starvation, dictatorships, apartheid and third world exploitation. The rosy post-Empire pictures of the world painted by the "Flight" series is likely to have formed the basis for many people's view of the outside world.

David Scott Daniell had a writing style was a combination of Sunday School prose and Janet and John (a contemporary reading scheme). This was part of the reason behind their popularity; they were pitched at a suitably young level, with exciting, vivid illustrations. The books were written from the viewpoint of John and Alison, whose parents had sufficient disposable income to send their children on regular trips around the world. Clearly, any attempt to summarise a continent in 50 pages was doomed to failure, but the series made a valiant attempt.

Flight 1: Australia (1958) is perhaps the most up-to-date, in that vast areas of Australia are still pretty much as they were in the late 50's. As ever, John and Alison's friends are not short of money, owning "thousands of sheep". Their son Bill was studying to attend boarding school and has his own rifle!

Flight 2: Canada (1959) sees the children staying at the Le Bruns, "business friends of Daddys" who all "speak perfect English". Trapper Joe imparts various pearls of wisdom, such as "the Eskimo, missy, is a mighty fine fellow".

Flight 3: USA (1959) gives Daddy a chance to impress his children with lots more facts for their scrapbook; "Americans eat enormous breakfasts and lots of meat for dinner". The children soon absorb this wealth of knowledge, offering "America is big and rich and friendly".

Flight 4: India (1960) - yet more business friends of Daddys provide the accomodation, Mr Ram Chand and Mrs Ram Chand. Daddy hits the nail on the head once again, observing "India is very ancient, but it is very modern as well". The children are very impressed by the locals who go to school on an elephant. They are told; "in the town, the elephants are parked just as buses are parked in England".

Flight 5: Africa (1961) might have been written by the Johannesburg Tourist Department, so gushing is the description of life there. John and Alison meet a friend of Daddy's, one Mr. Wells (blond hair, naturally!), who lives in a "splendid house with modern farm buildings all around it. The farm workers were Africans, who were very clever with the machinery."

Flight 6: The Holy Land (1962) presents a somewhat one-sided view of Israel, where all is peaceful and the sun shines 24 hours a day. Cars are rarely seen and people ride around on donkeys. John and Alison are put in the picture by Dad; "Here in Israel you are always seeing the ancient and the modern side by side." said Daddy. "And Christian, Jew and Moslem all live peacefully together". Daddy isn't totally unaware of the realities of life however; "the Arab countries on Israel's borders are all hostile. Israel only asks to be left in peace." This being the accepted view at the time!

The titles were all originally issued with dust-jackets, and later with coloured card covers. It's a little hard to determine when the books were phased out. It seems that Ladybird began adding ISBN numbers to their titles around 1968. As none of the "Travel Adventure" titles were ever given such a number, we can assume they were withdrawn just before 1968.