imagesPublishing Perspectives has a story about spoof Ladybirds which were quite a success in the last Christmas season. Foyles reported that eight of their ten bestsellers over Christmas were these Ladybird parodies. Just like any law the words of the copyright law are open to interpretation, and although “parody” is listed as one instance of fair use, the definition of parody can be debated, especially where it shades into “passing off”. Random House UK were upset by the original Ladybird spoof published in 2014 by an indie publisher, who under RH legal pressure, changed the imprint on the spoof book to Dung Beetle. It has apparently sold 60,000 copies.

The joke is no doubt lost on an American audience. I suspect that you had to grow up with Ladybird Books for it to mean much. There are few Brits who wouldn’t instantly recognize a style of picture that they’d first seen in Ladybird Books. The company was founded as a bookshop in 1867, in Loughborough, and in 1904 changed its name to Wills and Hepworth. The company published its first Ladybird book in 1914 and registered the trade mark in 1915.  Because of the success of the line, they changed their company name to Ladybird Books in 1971. It became part of the Pearson Group in 1972 and was merged into Penguin Books in 1998, at which time the offices and printing works in Loughborough were closed.

imagesThe original books were 4½ x 7 inches, with a four-color illustration on one page, and black and white text on the facing page. They were printed on a single quad crown sheet, measuring  40 by 30 inches, and folded down to 64pp. Case bound in paper over boards, they were instantly recognizable. My little sister used to refer to this one as “The seegie lamb”.