I challenge anyone over the age of 30 not to get nostalgic about Ladybird books. Certain covers take me right back to my childhood, and from over hearing others at the Ladybird by Design exhibition at the De La Warr pavilion, many people feel exactly the same way.
These fantastic little books have slowly been gaining cult status over the last decade, with their prices slowly rising in charity shops and online, and the emergence of the Simon Spicer cards that are sold in contemporary gift shops.
Last autumn we watched "The Ladybird Book Story: How Britain Got the Reading Bug" on BBC iplayer. It was absolutely fascinating, seeing why the books were initially made, and how the themes developed. It was also comforting to see other enthusiasts who were far more avid collectors than us (who always used them, not just collected them).
We never need an excuse to pop over the beautiful De La Warr Pavilion, and so when we saw they were showing an exhibition all about Ladybird books we put it top of our Easter holiday list. Bexhill is lovely in Spring. A real antidote to busy and bustling Brighton (I am one of those miserable people who prefer it off season) the beach is lovely to walk along, and the views along the coast are spectacular. Monday was a good day to go, the sun was shining so the building looked stunning.
The title of the exhibition is based on the book written by Lawrence Zeegan, which was published on 5th March. Ladybird by Design tells the story of the books, and is my read of the year (so far..!). It is full of images from the books, but there is also so much to read. A real treat if you are into design, social history and/or illustration. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book for mothers day from my children, along with the card you can see on the left (well, I would imagine my husband bought it...)
The exhibition was well worth travelling along the coast to see. One of the first things you see when you walk in is a case that contains the mock up of the first book, then a sheet of paper with a book printed on it, before it is cut and bound.
My favourite area was the paintings from Shopping with Mother". We spent a long time looking at each image, and we realised we were narrating them to each other and pointing out details - just like you would with a four year old. The illustrations are just exquisite.
After the De La Warr we went to look round the shops in Bexhill. Lots and lots of charity shops, which did mean we bought some books - including these two for £1. Check out the cheese and pineapple on the cover! The nine year old is planning on cooking a few recipes from these. Published in 1979, featuring photography not illustrations, they are still clear and easy to read. No collectors items for us, they will be used. First project is an orange cake - maybe with angelica.
Ladybird by Design exhibition
On till 10th May 2015, at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.