Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A Long Look at a Small Bookcase

This little bookcase lives in my hall and, during the great book sort last weekend, I decided to use it for some of my smaller collections of children's books. The bookcase itself is about seventy years old and was made by my Grandfather out of old packing cases. I have a workbox that was made in the same way.

Anyway, back to the books. On the top shelf are my Ladybird Books; some are my original childhood books but most have been bought more recently.

Since the 1940s Ladybird books have been popular and affordable small books for children. Printing each book on one large sheet of paper meant that quality books could be sold at reasonable prices.

I loved this book as a child and used to pore over the pictures. Children's books with coloured illustrations like this were a real treat in the early 1960s.

These two were mine as a child too. I like the picture of the school milk - those were the days.

The next two are more recent acquisitions.

I particularly love this one, it's just my sort of thing.

And of course I had to have the Ladybird Book of Knitting.

I think I may have to add to this collection soon. Books & Ink have lots of old Ladybirds, just waiting to tempt me.

Next to the Ladybirds on the shelf are three small books.

These are King Penguins, they were published in the 1940s and 50s and are a similar size to the Ladybirds. They're beautifully designed - just look at this one ...

This is 'A Book of Toys' written and illustrated by Gwen White. Nearly all the toys pictured can be found in London museums so you could visit them and look for the originals.

'Wild Flowers of the Chalk' by John Gilmour

This last one is an amazing book. The maps are from John Speed's Atlas of 1627; it's fun to see how much (or little) counties you know have changed since then.

On to the second shelf of the bookcase now. 

I expect these are familiar to most people - some of the Arthur Ransome series of 'Swallows and Amazons' books.

I do like books with map endpapers - this one's from 'Picts and Martyrs'

In this illustration from 'We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea' you can see the rescue of Sinbad, the ship's cat.

I only read 'Swallows and Amazons' as a child (thank-you Puffin Story Books - more about those in another post) but have since read and re-read the whole series as well as sharing them with my two children. This led to an Arthur Ransome themed holiday in the Lake District where we climbed Kachenjunga and found the Dog's Home, as well as visiting Captain Flint's houseboat and picnicking at Darien. If none of this means anything to you, go and read the books - they're wonderful.

Next to the Arthur Ransome are some non-fiction books. First, a few books from the Blackwell's Learning Library, school books from the 1960s and 70s.

I like these for their social history as well as the illustrations. Here are a couple of pages from 'Edna Johnson's Summer Book', first published in 1963.

In 'Dancing in Britain', as well as the expected references to Morris Dancing and Maypole, I also found this ...

Scottish soldiers from the 51st Highland Division dancing in a German prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. The book says that they invented a new dance which is still called the Reel of the 51st Division.

Next come these two books which I expect were also school books.

These were published by the Blandford Press, I would guess in the 1950s. As you can see, I have yet to find Book 2 of the series. More lovely illustrations in these pages from the two books.

The tiny little books at the end of this shelf are my collection of old I-Spy Books.

Modern versions of these little books are still being published by Collins; the idea is to spot things around a theme. You get different numbers of points for each thing you spot, depending on how hard they are to find and, when you have enough points, you can send off for a certificate. You used to get a badge which I think was nicer but the books are still lots of fun.

'I-Spy Wild Flowers'
'I-Spy History'

Not that my house is full of old things but I have everything on that page from 'I-Spy History'!

And now for the bottom shelf of the little bookcase.

These are my Little Grey Rabbit books. I had just one of these as a child which I read and re-read, 'Wise Owl's Story'.

I didn't know that it was part of a series so imagine my delight when, as an adult, I found that Alison Uttley had written more than 30 little books about Little Grey Rabbit and her friends. The stories are lovely, full of details of the countryside and they have the most beautiful pictures by Margaret Tempest.

Here are just a few of my favourites ...

Two books featuring Fuzzypeg the Hedgehog 

How wonderful is it that there's a book about making lace?

I bought 'Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas' just last week and it's already one of my favourites. There's sledging and snowballs (Fuzzypeg gets stuck in one), carol singing, primrose wine and lots of kindness between neighbours. 

And we've finally got to the end of the bookcase. I hope you've enjoyed this look at some of my collections and that it's brought back happy memories of your own childhood books. 

I have more book collections on other bookcases, including hundreds of first edition Puffin Story Books and Green Penguins But they will have to wait for another day.


  1. I remember some of your books especially the Ladybird ones i still have some that my daughter had......also the Beatrix Potter books my favorite is Mrs Tiggy winkle. Thank you for sharing yours .....

  2. Yes, my children had the Beatrix Potter too. I rather liked Jeremy Fisher and the tortoise who arrives with his salad in a bag.