Choosing a book or books for my first post was quite a challenge. I have a long list of books for future posts, but the first one needed to be special. I decided to go back to the very beginning of my love affair with reading; when I was still living in a village in England. My mother used to take me to Webberley’s in Stoke each week and over the past 40 years I have continued to spend an afternoon there every time I am in England. I was really looking forward to returning with my mother this summer so you can imagine my disappointment to find it had closed in January. My heart aches as another beautiful bookstore caves to the pressure of the digital age and as I realize I will never spend an afternoon there again. So in pursuit of catharsis, I decided a look at the books I bought there as a young child would be a fitting tribute to the role Webberley’s played in launching my reading life and a perfect first post.
I was only two or three when my mother used to take me there so I don’t remember going to the store itself, but I do remember the large number of Ladybird books I managed to acquire. I was allowed to choose one each week, and I took the process very seriously. I learned how to read with my Ladybird books and understood phonics and sounding out words well before I started school in Canada.
These three nursery rhyme books are the ones I remember the most clearly and coincidentally are the ones with the most wear and tear. I can still remember every one of the nursery rhymes in them, which is a testament to how many times I read them with my parents. I’m sure they can remember every word too.
After the nursery rhymes, it’s the Well Loved Tales series that is most near and dear to my heart. From what I’ve read Well Loved Tales is still Ladybird’s most popular series and sought after by collectors, myself included. The Magic Porridge Pot is one that really stands out for me as it’s not a story you commonly find. These tales are so much a part of me that I forget every child was not raised on them and am constantly amazed when my students say they have never heard of the Wolf and the Seven Little Kids or the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Ladybird has several other series covering just about every subject imaginable. I have a smattering of these books and remember some better than others. For some reason I have a strong memory of Levers and Pulleys but I don’t have it in my current collection. I am also desperate to find Shopping With Mother, which I remember very vividly but also don’t have. Apparently it’s quite rare and difficult to find now.
I’m sure every kid who grew up in Britain (or with British parents) in the 60’s and 70’s remembers these books. And it appears Ladybird remembers us too! As I perused details for this post I discovered that Ladybird published a line for Grown Ups recently. I’m on a mission to get my hands on them (particularly the two below) so if anyone can help let me know.
For me Ladybird Books are where my reading began and they hold a very special place in my heart. If you remember them, please share which ones stand out for you!
And Webberley’s. Webberley’s was my very first bookstore, and will always be my very first bookstore. Those of you who are booklovers can relate I’m sure, and have felt your own loss as your favourites have closed. I know I will have to go and stand outside its closed door before I accept that it really is gone.
Until next week…