I once went to the launch of a Ladybird exhibition or nostalgia-fest book and the speaker (who worked for Penguin) opened by asking,
“Is there a Peter or Jane in the room?”
She went on to say that at most Ladybird functions, about half a dozen middle-aged people emerge one-by-one over the course of the evening to say that they were Peter or Jane – that is to say, as a child they had modelled for the artwork.
Every now and then an article will appear in the press, entitled “The Real Jane” or “The Real Peter”, telling us that x or y was the ‘original model’. A year or two ago on the Antiques Roadshow someone was presented as ‘Peter’ – along with the artwork he modelled for. Sometimes we are shown the artwork that the child modelled for and, as in the A.R. man’s case, it isn’t even from a Peter and Jane book at all!
The two main artists who worked on the Key Word Reader scheme both stated several times that there was no one model who ‘was’ Peter or Jane. Instead a variety of children were used over the years – with the artists using their imagination and a few consistent features to ensure that the characters were clearly recognisable to young children. (That said, I think Adrian Heath’s claim to be 1970s Peter is stronger than most as I can recognise him in quite a number of Martin Aitchison pieces).
But that’s why it was so reassuring to write the piece “The Boy who ISN’T Peter” some years ago. Sorting out my files, I came across it and thought I would dust it off here. Click in image below to read: