We’ve recently ‘celebrated’ World Book day.
So of course friends post lists of favourite books and inspirational books and books that have influenced them. And they everyone else about their lists. And yes My list always consists of a few CS Lewis Books and at least 3 Guy Gavriel Kay books (honestly, the guy is a genius and knows how to wring your emotions and evoke beauty and memory – My absolute Favourite writer!) and a revolving door of classics that swing in and out of my memory and beloved books that are read and re-read. But without doubt, the books that actually meant everything to me and taught me about stories and fairies and heroes and cleverness were Ladybird Books.
And good news for me, the little books that really introduced me to fairy stories and storytelling have made a big comeback in recent months. I remember fondly my copy of “The Elves and the Shoemaker” that I used to cuddle in bed, then Rapunzel which at some point had pages ripped out – probably due to a sibling fight.
Those wee Ladybird books gave me the images that now always spring up in my mind when I hear the names of particular stories – even above some of the imagery from the Disney films. Those beautiful pictures, rendered almost as masterpiece paintings, that filled one page with a page of text opposite, those drew me in to the story. But it was the simple and heartfelt writing that kept the stories with me. They didn’t need embellishing, the heart of the story was enough. These treasured tomes, along with those CS Lewis books, my copy of Robin Hood and Roger Lancelyn Green’s retelling of King Arthur, were my doorway to story.
And now they seem to be making a comeback. With the rise in recent years of the “parody” ladybird books (such as “the wife, how it works”) the actual original storybooks we loved as children have also made a resurgence – reprinted with the glory of the original paintings and there for you to remember why stories made you feel safe and warm and at home. They’re there for you to remember why stories are integral to understanding, to unravelling meaning, to developing thinking. They’re there for you to remember that people have been the same through the ages and we can still defeat dragons (or imps or witches or even men).
Check out the Ladybird site (although you don’t appear to be able to buy the books from there… a pretty major failing) and take a look! VintageLadybird.com
I’ve been thinking about a number of the stories I first learned from Ladybird, especially in light of potentially worrying events currently swirling around us. And I’m reminded that whilst an oppressive regime attempts to assert itself across the Atlantic and we have one well underway here in Britain they give themselves away in their disdain for the arts, for creativity, for proper education and in their disdain (even hatred) for books and stories. For they are fearful of education, fearful of books and fearful of stories. For these things give us the tools to fight regimes: Critical thinking, A sense of wonder and best of all growing our Empathy – for when we have a fully functioning empathy then one of the major weapons in their arsenal , that of attempting to “blame the other”, falter and fail. Indeed, those attempts galvanise resistance – just as we are seeing our American cousins do right now – and we’re right behind them!
So in this context, there have been three particular stories that I loved that have been playing around my head the last few weeks: Rumplestiltskin, Snow White & Rose Red and Beauty & The Beast. And with that thought…I should get to writing the next couple of posts.
Meanwhile… Go rediscover/discover those wonderful little books. And enjoy 🙂