The Wee Web - exploring Ladybird books
Search Title  Search Keyword advanced search >
Ladybird books - information regarding Wills & Hepworth
HOME
THE SHOP
BUY LADYBIRD BOOKS
SELL YOUR LADYBIRDS

Ladybird Info
A Ladybird History
Browse the Ladybird Series & their Books
Identify Your Edition
Book Formats
The Image Gallery
Authors & Illustrators
FAQs & Answers
Rare Editions
Ephemera and other Collectables
ITA Ladybird
Ladybird News Archive

Popular Series
Well Loved Tales
Key Words Reading Scheme
Adventures from History
People at Work

help menu
your comments
links
about us
terms & conditions
privacy policy
contact us

Boys and Girls
Recommend this
page to a friend


 
Ladybird author Patrick Armstrong talks to The Wee Web


Patrick Armstrong
is the author of six books for the Ladybird 'Leaders' series (737).

The six books are Deserts, Forests, Mountains, Polar Regions and Islands from the Leader Series as well as Nature's Roundabout from the Conservation Series.

Polar Regions by Patrick Armstrong
Polar Regions - one of the six books Patrick Armstrong wrote for Ladybird Books
Patrick, whose latest book 'Darwin's Other Islands' is being released in October 2004 (Continuum Publishing, London and New York), now lives in Australia in what he describes as an "English-style house in a tree-lined street close to the university at which he taught for 30 years".

Patrick was kind enough to answer a few questions for us regarding his time as a Ladybird author.

The Wee Web

Can you tell us a little on how you came to write books for Ladybird?

Patrick

With a young family, living in a Cambridgeshire village (two boys) in the late 1960s and early 1970s we got to know the Ladybird series well; we owned many dozens, factual books and "well-loved tales", reading books - all sorts. In due course we discovered the "Leaders" series. I immediately thought "I can do as well as these guys" and offered to write a few. The rationale was that they contained interesting factual material, a bit more intellectually stimulating than "Jane and Peter" for older children with reading difficulties, for whom younger children's material would be unsuitable - or so it was explained to me. Also, at that time the Persian Gulf oil industry was expanding rapidly and there was a great demand materials for teaching basic English to adults whose first language was Arabic or some other Asian language; the "leaders" series answered admirably.

I wrote: "Deserts", "Forests", "Mountains", "Polar Regions" and "Islands" in the mid-1970s. My approach was to provide sound scientific and geographical facts presented as simply as possible. I indicated the general nature of the illustrations I wanted, but Ladybird commissioned them - I think the link was very successful.

There is another aspect I could mention. After we moved permanently to Australia in 1975, we were pretty hard-up; we had just bought a house - scraping the last cent for the deposit - close to the University where I was teaching; in late 1975 my parents visited us; they were both elderly and in indifferent health, and as we saw them off at the airport we found ourselves promising to visit them at Christmas 1976. We thus needed four air-fares (well, two and two halves) pretty badly and pretty quickly. The payments I got for my texts from Ladybird were very useful! On that visit (December 1976) I drove over to Loughborough to approve the illustrations of two or three of the books. I recall I got a small grant for the trip from the Australian Export Promotion Organisation (it had a name something like that - it has long since been disbanded) for helping to promote Australia's exports! I was pretty pleased about that!

The Wee Web

Had you written any books before writing for Ladybird?

Patrick

Yes. I wrote a couple of books for Shire Publications: "Discovering Ecology" and "Discovering Geology". Also a book on East Anglia called "The Changing Landscape" (Terence Dalton Ltd, Lavenham, Suffolk, 1975). All now out of print.

The Wee Web

Were there certain guidelines laid down concerning the structuring of the Ladybird books you wrote, and if so what were they? (this could be a restriction to the word count, certain words not allowed to be used etc)

Patrick

I think I have partly answered this above: solid, accurate factual material set out as simply as possible.

The Wee Web

Did you have any control over the illustrations that accompanied your writing?

Patrick

I made suggestions about what I wanted, and included rough sketches or photocopies in a few cases. I checked the visual material of at least some of the books.

The Wee Web

The written content in the books you wrote - did Ladybird edit any of these before going to press?

Patrick

Not much.

The Wee Web

You wrote six books for Ladybird - Deserts, Forests, Mountains, Polar Regions and Islands from the Leader Series as well as Nature's Roundabout from the Conservation Series - which of these books do you like best, and which do you like the least?

Patrick

My favourite is Polar Regions: I think the illustrations are particularly good. I was amazed to see a "fine copy" for sale on the web recently for £145.00!

I later wrote "Nature's Roundabout" in the Conservation Series: this contains slightly more advanced concepts. The title was not my suggestion, and I did not particularly like it. The book's OK, tho', with some beaut pictures.

The Wee Web

How long did each book take to write?

Patrick

The actual text took a few weeks in each case (sandwiched in to a busy lecturing, teaching and marking schedule, research, and family activities), but editing, corresponding about illustrations, and so on, took much longer

The Wee Web

Did you ever meet any other Ladybird authors or illustrators?

Patrick

No. At least not knowingly.

The Wee Web

Are you willing to disclose how much you were paid by Ladybird for each book written - if you are not willing to tell us this information can you at least let us know if you were paid a flat sum or were you paid through the amount of sales per book?

Patrick

We are talking here about contracts that were agreed 25-30 years ago, when the value of money was very different; a statement of the sums involved would have little relevance today. But yes, I was paid a flat fee.


The Wee Web

Did you find Ladybird an easy publishing house to work with?


Patrick

Yes, as far as I can recall.

The Wee Web

We understand that you have recently retired from teaching geogaphy, ecology and environmental management at an Australian University - is teaching something you have done throughout your working career?


Patrick

Yes. Before I went to Australia, I taught geography and geology at what was then the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia University). My approach has always been to tell the story of our beautiful and interesting world "outside the academy" - to the public at large as well as within colleges, schools and univerities. Thus from very soon after qualifying (at Durham University) I have regularly written about plants, animals, rocks, ecology, landscapes &c, for newspapers and magazines, in books for children and young people, as well as text-books for schools and universities and scientific papers and scholarly monographs.

The Wee Web

In your Ladybird Leader book entitled Islands you mention Rathlin, the place where Robert the Bruce hid in a cave and gained inspiration from a spider to return to Scotland to face his enimies - have you ever visited this island or any of the other places mentioned in this book?

Patrick

Yes; I have been interested in islands throughout my life. Indeed my writing and research throughout the last two decades has been on the geography and ecology of remote islands, and Charles Darwin's visits to these islands (he visited about 40 islands during the voyage of the Beagle, 1831-1836) My book "Darwin's Other Islands" (Continuum Publishing, London and New York) is to appear in October, 2004. My theme is that there was a lot more to Darwin's voyage than the Galapagos, and the "other islands" he visited were of immense imporrtance to his development.

And yes, I've visited Rathlin; my father was interested in islands (and wrote about them) and I first visited Rathlin with him as a 'teenager. I've also visited Bali, Hawaii, Mauritius, and coral islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean - usually to do research, or collect material for books and articles. I've visited ther Falklands and the Azores as part of my Darwin researches. .... and many parts of Australia, of course!

The Wee Web

Did you ever visit the Ladybird Factory in Loughborough and if so can you share with us the time you spent there?

Patrick

Yes, I recall driving over to Loughborough from Cambridge on a freezing cold day around Christmas, 1976, to check illustrations for some of the books. (We were visiting Cambridge from Australia - see above). I can't remember much about it; I do remember the staff were friendly, and we went out for lunch, at a nearby pub. I think.

The Wee Web

Are you still writing books today and if so can you tell us what current projects you are working on or recent books / articles published?

Patrick

Yes; see my reference to "Darwin's Other Islands" above. I have other projects in view: more writing on Darwin, and possibly a text-book or two. I also jointly edit an annual publication called "Geographers: Bibibliographical Studies" of a fairly specialist nature (also Continuum Publishing).

My last major book was "The English Parson-Naturalist: a Companionship between Science and Religion", Gracewing, Leomister, 2000. I'm particularly proud of this book, tho' it's never going to be a big seller.

The Wee Web

You obviously have a love for the 'natural world' - is this something you were interested in as a child?

Patrick

Absolutely; bird-watching, insect studying, pressed flower collecting, and general natural history were very much part of my childhood, particularly on camping holidays in Suffolk.

The Wee Web

What were your favourite books as a child?

Patrick

From the above you will not be surprised to know that that natural history books such as "Butterfly Book for the Pocket" and "Insect Book for the Pocket" (both by E Sandars) were my constant companions. The battered copies are on my bookshelf as I write. Fiction? I suppose I had a rapport with the kids in the Arthur Ransome books; perhaps I identified most with Dick in "Winter Holiday", "Coot Club", and "Great Northern?". And to a lesser extent the stories by Malcolm Saville. And I have to confess that the "Just William" stories made me laugh then, and made me laugh now.

The Wee Web

If you had the opportunity to write for Ladybird again is this something you would be happy to do?

Patrick

Yes. Absolutely.

The Wee Web

Have you any message for the people who have read and enjoyed your Ladybird books?

Patrick

We live in a beautiful and interesting world. Look after it.

The Wee Web would like to thank Patrick Armstrong for giving us the time in answering our questions.


Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /home/splafter/public_html/ladybird/patrick_armstrong.php:13) in /home/splafter/public_html/includes/conex.php on line 2

Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent (output started at /home/splafter/public_html/ladybird/patrick_armstrong.php:13) in /home/splafter/public_html/includes/conex.php on line 2
Ladybird Articles
The M.O.D. Computer book myth
Tootling About - registration plates
Ladybird protest NHS sex manual
Pagan birdlife inspired by Ladybird
more articles >

Patrick Armstrong - Ladybird author
read about
Patrick Armstrong
Random fact

A noted politician once asked in Parliament, 'Has the Right Honourable Member read the Ladybird Book on Politics?


BUY OUR definitive guide to LADYBIRD BOOKS

Other Wee Web projects
Author / Illustrator database
Visit our
Ladybird Blog