This is the only book in my vast collection that I originally owned as a child and has stuck with me throughout. If you look closely you will see that Ms Riding Hood has a pair of glasses and a light beard. This is the work of my brother and, even today – 35 years later – just looking at it produces a primative urge in me to squeal and tell my mother.
This books is special to me too because I actually own the original artwork of the picture it shows. And this was the first Ladybird Book illustrated by Harry Wingfield, perhaps the most famous of all the Ladybird artists. In an interview a couple of years before he died he said that he put his heart and soul into this book, to be sure that he got regular work from Ladybird. It paid off; he became the favoured illustrator for the next couple of decades.
At the time my squealing must have paid off. My brother’s additions to the artwork got him into a lot of trouble. Books were special in our house and to be treated with respect. I think times have changed rather, in this respect. It is very common to find vandalised, scribbled on copies of the more modern Ladybird Books, but the chances are that the very old ones will be in lovely condition. When they were first issued in 1940 they cost 2 shillings and 6d. This was war time and a time of paper-shortages – and a brand new book must have been a real treat to be treasured. The price of Ladybird Books stayed exactly the same for the next 30 years – and even today they only cost £2.00 – and their prizeworthiness has of course declined in step.
Would today’s little sister squeal and make a fuss?