Ladybird and the Great T.V.Tie-in

It's easy to forget how innovative and modern Ladybird books were when first produced. Alongside that neat, economical format, were Uncle Mac and Muriel 'Auntie' Levy of radio fame. Ladybird appeared to be addressing the up-to-date 40s child.

Another method of persuading
children not to watch TV!
The Party, 1960

Somewhere beyond those first steps into the sphere of everyday folk, Ladybird entered a time blip, not unlike many who refuse to this day to accept that the 60's were swinging (my parents, for example). For such people, the 60s were no different to the 50s - there were still out-side toilets, anti-macassars still adorned the sofa, corner shops provided limited choice usually without the smile and Dixon of Dock Green provided the in-house entertainment.

A sharp glance at some LB titles produced then give scant evidence that skirts were being replaced by belts and long-haired men with wired guitars adorned our screen (albeit on BBC2 or the Lulu show). No, the LB staple on domestic life-style threw up Helping at Home: not a T.V. in sight - and this was supposed to be a normal average post coronation household. Whilst cheap polythene wrapped imports and Chad Valley projectors were invading Woolies. LB were persuading children to use up old scraps and toilet rolls to produce state of the art toys. Yes I know the Blue Peter argument but it wasn't all sticky-back plastic and Brunel (was it?).

The 70's forced a sea-change. Ugliness was in and there was no way anyone could stop the tide, vis-a vis revamped KWs read to a background of Money, Money, Money while lounging on a swirly shagpile. However, somehow LB maintained a curious old-fashionedness, put into context Girl Guides 1980 would suggest that Punk had never been - and gone. I was just a bit too old (and bad) for the Guides by then -but no self -effacing teen would surely have admitted to the hairstyles in it!

No, it took the 80's before LB fully embraced television and up to date cultural references (bar How it works). Even more surprising was its leap into what was then an emerging style (now of course defunct) of Post-Modernism and Anorak sub-culture. It started with Thomas the Tank Engine, a fully anachronistic series with Ringo as voice over, in the days when rail re-privatisation was as close as the Fat Controller was to touching his toes. Andy Pandy - every 90s student's reference point, interestingly untouched by LB in its childrens' heyday of the 60's and Terry Pratchett's Truckers. Need I say more? Other tie-ins included Frank Muir's What-a-mess and of course the World Cup books.

What I'd dearly have loved back then would have been Joe Ninety, Timeslip and Magpie but not, under any circumstances, Follyfoot.


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