Junior Science

Magnets, Bulbs and Batteries 62
Lights Mirrors and Lenses 62

Air, Wind and Flight 63
Levers, Pulleys and Engines 64

You won't find a better series to aim at than the early Junior Science editions, which represent Ladybird at their finest. Written by F.E.Newing B.Sc.& R. Bowood, illustrated by Harry Wingfield, they offered a series of fascinating experiments you could perform to illustrate scientific principles. Magnets, Bulbs & Batteries was the first in the series, with the list of "articles you need" including 1.5 volt batteries, torch bulbs, a bar magnet, a horseshoe magnet, plasticene, tin-tacks, a large bodkin, a small cork, a clothes peg, one or two small pieces of wood.

What more did any child need in those days to keep amused why learning things? Wingfield was at his best with some charming illustrations - a personal favourite is the one where two children send Morse code signals from bedroom to bedroom at night. I always wished I had a similarly aged neighbour who would help out...

Another fascinating image shows a young girl dismantling a battery with a pair of pliers, whilst a boy sticks bits of metal into a lemon & sucks the end of them. It makes today's "E" popping youngsters look tame by comparison! As well as magnetism, static & "real" electricity are discussed, including the classic final sentence; "remember - never touch mains electricity!" Bowood & Newing teamed up on quite a few science-based books, such as The Weather and some in the Natural history series. Bowood tackled several books on his own, including The Story of Flight, and the short Our Land in the Making series. Interestingly, the team returned to help with the revamped series 621 in the early 80's.

Lights, Mirrors & Lenses moved onto a safer area, that of light. Topics included shadows, pinhole cameras, periscopes, peppers ghost, lenses, making a telescope (need: two lenses, one ruler, plasticene). Like the entire series, the beauty lay in the simplicity of materials needed to illustrate a scientific principle. Today's multi-media teachers might do well to flick through these books now & again.

Throughout the illustrations, one can see the beautifully drawn eyes of excited children, surely a central part of the visual appeal. The endless fascination of simple devices such as prisms is lovingly demonstrated.

Air Wind & Flight explained such burning topics as "why does the wind blow"and "why does an astronaut wear a special suit"? Other exciting experiments showed include how to empty the water from a fishtank with a tube - you have to feel sorry for the poor fish.

The cover is wonderful - you can even see the girl's hair being blown by the wind. How many people's childhood can be summed up by images such as these? Like some of the others, this book includes a few "self-referential" images - piles of books are inevitably topped with a Wills & Hepworth special!

Levers Pullies & Engines tackled slightly more complex devices such as pendulums, turbines, internal combustion engines & gyroscopes, but reading through the pages, they don't seem more complex. A working pulley is made form 4 cotton reels, a coat-hanger and some string. There are no plastic bits, nuts or bolts to get in the way. Once again, wide-eyed children conduct the experiments with enthusiasm and delight.

Later additions to the series included: Zoology, Weather, Botany, Air, Magnets and Electricity, Simple Mechanics & Simple Chemistry. Offering a similar approach, they used mostly photographs in place of the beautiful artwork of the 60's classics.