It’s easy to get a bit sentimental over many of the golden-age Ladybird book illustrators and lose sight of the fact that they were busy working people, just earning a crust.

For the most part, the artists don’t seem to have been proud to be illustrating children’s books.  From correspondence I’ve read, some at least were rather uncomfortable to be using their talents on such humble books instead of something more ‘worthy’.

The schedule for book production was demanding – 24+ full page boards, crammed with detail, were required and there were a lot of books.  The editorial director kept a ‘Keen’ and educated eye on quality.

So it’s quite interesting to look out for the short-cuts that the artists sometimes took to get through their workload.  Here are some that I’ve spotted, but please let me know if you find any others.

Before getting started, I should I’m NOT here talking about the many instances (see above) where the artwork was updated between editions of books – to correct a mistake or to move with the times.  This example from The Story of Ships (first pointed out to me by Paul Crampton).

For me this is also an interesting topic – but today’s is a different story.


1) Same artist – different book

Here is Harry Wingfield making effective use of the set of sketches and photos that he took at a children’s party to illustrate two different books: The Party and The Lord’s Prayer (published in the same year)


The start of the books ‘Knitting’ and ‘Crochet’ began with the advice to wash hands – so why would Harry reinvent the wheel when a quick makeover can be performed?


A slightly more subtle example by Frank Humphris can be found in this picture of Alexander Selkirk, ‘The Story of Pirates’ and White Bird Canyon (The Story of Indians).


John Berry’s was also quite a subtle makeover in these pictures from The Policeman and The Roadmakers:

 2) Same artist, same book!

Slightly more daring was Berry’s use of the same preparatory photograph  just a few pages along in the same book:

I expect he felt that, with the regulation haircut and uniform, no one would notice.

But I think my favourite bit of creative recycling is this one:

3) Different artist, different book

Here Martin Aitchison saves himself the effort of a visit to the hospital for a preparatory photograph when Peter and Jane’s cousins visit someone in hospital.  Instead Martin ‘visits’ John Berry’s book The Nurse, published a few years before.  And why not?