Most Ladybird fans have one favourite Ladybird book, but they may well find it a bit harder to choose just one favourite front cover. There are so many great ones to choose from the Ladybird archive – classic, striking and sometimes quirky, but all with something interesting to say about the era they were published in.
As Ladybird: A Cover Story is published this month, we caught up with Ladybird Art Director, Jo Garden to get her perspective on the enviable task of selecting a collection of 500 iconic Ladybird front covers.
With so many books published over 50 years, how did you even begin to select which covers to feature?
It was rather a big task! Luckily we have a big archive of books here at Ladybird HQ, so the editor of the book and I spent many a happy hour going through them and picking out our favourites.
The covers are not featured in a chronological order so how did you decide how to categorize and organise them?
To get a really good mix of covers throughout the book it was best not to feature them chronologically. So, instead, they are put together as spreads where they try and say something about each other, such as the typography or the subject matter or, for example, we have shown two versions of the same book but with an updated jacket reflecting the design sensibilities of the time. Also many have been paired as a witty play on each other!
Could you tell us a little more about what has been called the ‘Golden Age of Ladybird’?
This period tends to be thought of as the 1940s-1970s before photography and computers took over. This is the era of wonderful illustrators and detailed draftsmen such as Charles Tunnicliffe, Robert Ayton and Martin Aitchison.
What is your particular favourite cover?
Being a designer, I really love the How it Works series, I find the covers so striking with real clarity and they are such good examples of the design style of the time. I also really love Weather as it has a slightly mournful, Edward Hopper-like cover image.
Where there any covers that surprised you in any way?
I’m always surprised by how beautiful many of the covers are (especially the What to Look For series) and some are so much more sophisticated than you would have expected from children’s books of the era.
Are there any more reissues planned?
Yes, we will be doing a few more facsimiles editions: this November we are publishing Well Loved Tales: Rapunzel and then, in 2015 as part of Ladybird’s 100th anniversary celebrations we will be publishing Adventures from History: King John and The Magna Carta, Nelson and Napoleon, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Rumplestiltskin and The Three Little Pigs. We are also publishing Ladybird by Design which charts the history of Ladybird from its very beginnings up to the present day, fabulously illustrated with Ladybird art from the archives.
Thanks Jo, it’s been fascinating to get your ‘designer’s eye’ view on the covers!