Who can resist a classic British Ladybird Book? Here’s a nice, crisp copy that I pulled off the shelf at home. Written by E.L. Grant-Watson and illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe, What to Look for in Spring was originally published in 1961 with a pre-decimal cover price of 2’6. If you have one with that shillings-and-pence price, you might be interested in finding out more about your book. This one is priced at 15p so dates from the early ’70s. As you’d expect, there were others in the What to Look for… series, all preceding this one: Winter (1959), Summer (1960), and Autumn (1960).
The book is actually rather lyrically written, if a bit on the dry side. Here’s the first line:
In the first week of March, alder catkins are already streaming in long tassels – scattering their pollen on the east wind.
Of course, we took our children’s books compliantly back in the ’60s and ’70s, like our mid-morning bottle of school milk. This one was definitely in the Read-it-cos-its good-for-you category, unapologetically conveying information. Roald Dahl would be at the absolute opposite end of the spectrum (Fun-fun-fun). The illustrations here are detailed and practical, not what you’d call beautiful. I probably picked this book up once or twice when I was bored senseless at home with recurrent bouts of tonsillitis, having tired of watching the box. There was no daytime TV in those days, just educational stuff. Turn on the set at 10am and you’d likely get some lank, greasy-haired loon delivering a physics lecture, all in tweedy monochrome. It’s a wonder I didn’t die of boredom. In this context, the Ladybird Book became almost tantalisingly interesting.
Anyway, age, nostalgia and the fuzziness of long-sight are renewing my enjoyment of these classic books, and I’m looking forward to following the progress of spring this year with the help of Grant-Watson & Tunnicliffe. If you want to explore the world of vintage Ladybird Books, the official site is a great place to start.