Top row - Robert Ayton, from Tricks and Magic 1969; last from Toys and Games We Make 1966.

Second Row - John Berry, from The Nurse 1963; Martin Aitchison from Games We Like 1964; J.H.Wingfield, Things We Do 1964; Robert Ayton, from Boys and Girls 1964

Third Row - John Berry. from Cub Scouts 1970; J.H.Wingfield, from The Holiday Camp Mystery 1966; G.Robinson Things to Make 1963; Martin Aitchison, from Great Artists 1970

These are individual images extracted from their sequences within the books, taken away from the explanatory texts printed opposite. Unfair? Oh yes, but the isolation intensifies the solidity, the dignity, the 'Chinese pitch of oddity'. I admire the quality of paint that is dead to the touch. Magritte, Jared French, Joseph Southall etc. There is no need for shimmering brushstrokes, and the cult of painting a premier coup. The compositions are predictable within the house style, but full of a chilled formality which I find oddly appropriate for the reminiscences of childhood. Particularly magical are the semi-educational illustrations of magical tricks performed by infants of considerable gravity. Quickness of hand? Not here. A slow and steady passage of objects from one dimension to another.

It is lazy thinking to believe that the illustrators worked 'with tongue in cheek'. I hope they didn't. It would undermine the ritalistic nature of the scenes, the loading of the ambulance, the parade of swimmers, the point of view of Vermeer's camera obscura, the perpetually hovering moppet against a clear summer's sky.

There are objections made on a regular basis that the Ladybird books did not represent the nation as a whole, the poverty and lack of opportunity of the working classes, the new ethnic majorities, the presence of crime and nuclear anxieties. All this is true for those of you who believe the primary role of the books is to instruct and reinforce the nature of Society.

I would counter that the books accurately reflect my life in Handforth and Watford. And even when they don't, provide a magical prism with as much terror as nostalgia. Watching David Lynch's films there are moments when a gesture or an inanimate object take on a particular significance for which you just can't give account.

In the three galleries I will attach the texts to the images so you don't feel thwarted.The oddness of message and atmosphere is sustained over the double page.



Champfleury declared Pre-Raphaelite paintings as images of "a Chinese pitch of oddity" (c1859), an admirable perspective given his limited exposure to English painting.