John Berry and his work for Ladybird books.
As I said in my last post, the People at Work series was one of the first Ladybird series I remember.
The first 7 titles represent for me ‘old Ladybird’ – with a rather retro post-war comfort and solidity to them. They show the grown-up world of work as a place of responsible adults, striving honestly to make the world a safer or a more comfortable place for us all – particularly for children. Nobody runs in this world – except the villains, and then the policeman (there are barely any policewomen) is forced to give chase. But for the most part people walk placidly, or sit or stand. All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well in Ladybird Land.
The policeman will catch the thief because that’s what policemen do. The fireman will put out the fire and the people will be safe. The nurse will look after the child and the child will soon be well again. Even the battery farms are happy places, with contented hens (it says so in the text).
There a real sense of transition in the next batch of book that Berry illustrated in this series, all of which were issued in the late 1960s. From The Postman to The Lifeboatmen this is very much a man’s world. In these books there are even fewer illustrations of women – not even as onlookers (with the notable exception of the workers in the potteries).
In these books technology is very much to the fore and generally this is embraced with enthusiasm – particularly in the text.
The working world is still a noble place. From the heavy industry of The Miner to the light industry of The Pottery Makers these are centuries-old trades, plied by workers much as they every have been – just with more buttons and levers.
The emphasis is on public service and great works. The three forces are covered in The Sailor, The Airman and The Soldier, all three men (just men) alert in their wholesome roles of peace-keepers and defenders.
Although they not actually in this series, the 3 books, also illustrated by Berry in a series called ‘The Public Services,’ really belong here – because of chronology and tone. (In case you’ve forgotten, the Public Services in question were Water, Gas and Electricity. Remember now? Seems a long time ago).
Basically, the late-60s is an exciting time to live – even if the colours are a little drab, a little dour at times compared to the earlier books.
The roads, freshly built by The Roadmakers are wide and smart and empty. Daddy can drive his brand new Mini, crafted by ‘The Carmakers’, quickly down these roads, home to Mummy and a home powered by wonderful labour-saving devices.
The rapid rate of technological development is still a little disconcerting at times, but there are helpful men (always men) with neat partings and heavy glasses ever on hand to orientate us through it all.
There are pylons and power stations and maybe at times these are a little challenging in our mental and physical landscape. But the pylons and power stations are not unharmonious;
not without their own grandeur and grace.
(To be continued).
The ‘People at Work’ series, 606b, and ‘Public Services’, 606e, illustrated by John Berry and written by different authors – but mainly by I and J Havenhand