There's no doubt about it, Topsy and Tim are a hit with children. Ladybird editor Ellen considers the twins' timeless appeal and the popularity of the Topsy and Tim books.
If our new Topsy and Tim titles look a bit familiar, it might be because you remember these lovable twins from your own childhood. They've been around for over 50 years in various different guises, and I remember them as little paperbacks with lovely vivid illustrations.
What I liked about them when I was a child was that Topsy and Tim were quite mischievous but they were normal children, doing the same sorts of things that I did. They even had the same woolly jumper as me!
Jean Adamson created the series with her husband Gareth in 1959. She had a background in advertising, and she wanted the illustrations to show all the fantastic new products and appliances that were appearing in everyone's households around this time, such as new fridge freezers, vacuum cleaners and trendy new clothes. That's one of the reasons looking at a Topsy and Tim book is like looking at a snapshot in time, just look at the doctor's fabulous checked suit in this picture:
But the reason the stories resonate with children to this day, is that Jean and Gareth cleverly realised that their young readers didn't need to be shown a fantasy world with magic characters – because their real lives are full of magic. When you're four years old, everything is new and exciting. Going to the dentist can be a big adventure, as can moving house or learning to swim. The stories are deceptively simple – time and again parents tell us that they don't know why, but their children want to read them over and over! There's something really compelling about seeing their own lives reflected back at them in the characters of the troublesome twins.
The books have changed with the times, while keeping the same values at heart. Nowadays, the stories are still written by Jean, but are illustrated by the very talented Belinda Worsley. You can see how closely they echo the originals. Look at these pages from 'Topsy and Tim go to the Doctor' from 1975:
Of course, we often publish new Topsy and Tim stories as well, to match the new experiences that children have in the real world – for example, 'Topsy and Tim Go Green' shows the children learning about recycling. 'Topsy and Tim Safety First' has been adapted from an older book about safety around the home, to ensure that the advice about safety is up to date. It shows Topsy and Tim using booster seats in the car, which didn't exist when the twins were first created! Another recent development is Topsy and Tim embracing the digital age with their very own app, 'Topsy and Tim Start School', an interactive story to help prepare for the first day of school.
This month we're publishing completely new titles to help children practise their writing and counting skills. They come with a chunky pen and lovely wipe-clean pages, so that children can draw on the page, then clean it off and start again.
The writing book shows the alphabet drawn in dotted lines for kids to trace over. The counting book is full of activities to help teach children the numbers 0 to 10. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Lastly, if you'd like to hear a little bit from Jean Adamson herself, here's some lovely footage of her talking about the inspiration behind her Topsy and Tim books.