651 Natural History

Plants and how they grow 65
Animals and how they live 65
Birds and how they live 66
Life of the Honey-bee 69
Learning about Insects and Small Animals 72
Prehistoric Animals and Fossils 74
The story of the Ant 80
The story of the Spider 80
Nature takes shape

Like many in the Ladybird canon, 651 was a sporadic series, released under the generic title of "A Ladybird Natural History Book". The company clearly realised the educational value of books about natural history, plus there was (and hopefully still is) a large audience who enjoy this kind of book for it's own sake without worrying about education as such.

Newing and Bowood wrote the first three volumes, with Ronald Lampitt providing quite grainy, dark images. A wide variety of animals from around the world are covered in volume 2, with sections on antlers, noses, teeth, tusks and many other aspects. The "Birds" volume concentrates mainly on British birds and makes a fine companion edition for the three "British Birds" from series 536. The theory of flight and the arrangement of wing-feathers is particularly interesting. The books was written long before the current theory that today's birds are the sole surviving relatives of the dinosaurs. There is also a page about eggs - one of the earlier LB books about birds had the section on eggs removed on request from ther RNIB, to stop giving ideas to idiots.

The "Honey-bee" saw a new team of Sinclair (text) and Payne (artwork) for a delightful addition to the series. The text reveals the authorís deep respect for "this remarkable insect" and the illustrations are bright and attractive. Timeless advice is given on handling bees "Tuck your trouser legs into your socks to avoid bees crawling up your legs". We also learn to spot the difference between the round dance and the waggle dance!

"Insects and small animals" (text by Romola Showen, art by Ronald Lampitt) covers the type of insects that small boys used to love; ants, spiders, snails, worms and so on. Each has a suggestion as to how you can bring these delights into your house by providing them with a Blue Peter style home! It was also the first of the series to lose some of the cover artwork in place of a blocked colour area for the title.

The "Prehistoric" title was also illustrated by Robert Ayton, who emphasised the ferocious nature of dinosaurs with the cover featuring a bloody fight between a pair of less than perfectly depicted critturs. His artwork, it must be said, varies both in style and quality - the depiction of the fossil-hunters seems quite different to that of the dinosaurs.

The stories of th Spider and Ant, bot written by John Paull in 1980, were among the first to use a proper photograph for the front cover. The contents mixed photos and artwork across both pages - the days of the "page of text/page of artwork" had gone forever. If anyone has spare copies of the final volume, please let me know.

When some of the series where reissued under the "Natural History" spined series, the Dinosaurs edition featured a completely revised (matt) cover.