Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Borrowed Bookshelves: 3
Emily Brett, Writer and Visual Artist, Hackney, London.
I found these much-loved Ladybird books lurking amongst Brett’s eclectic collection of literary and theological texts. Brett says, in testimony to the Ladybirds’ durability, “I loved the books’ feel: firm, droppable, difficult to rip the pages because the cover was so hard; and I loved the picture of the Ladybird in the top right corner.” She adds, “From the look of its legs I suspected that Ladybirds could crawl everywhere and everywhere they crawled there was a book about what they'd seen…”
The slim volumes are mostly educational; they alerted the young Brett to important concerns such as woodwork, pond life and pirates. Yet far and away her favourite was the story of Joan of Arc who saw visions of God in the sunlit fields. For a small girl who could still barely read, part of the appeal for Brett were the illustrations of the pious yet sassy saint-to-be and her surroundings. “The pictures of cows, bowls of soup, wooden tables, stone masonry, the church and battles, tell their own narrative, leading Joan from her village to her higher purpose. I remember particularly a picture of her holding up and dedicating her sword to a statue of the Virgin Mary. It seemed terribly noble and, in a way, glamorous. I realised there was much more to life than met the eye. I also loved the endpapers, with dark grey drawings and captions of important things, such as 'Crossbow-men', 'Joan in her armour', 'A Knight', etc.
“Joan’s story is so exciting. She's so brave and has such sensibility. On the cover there’s a picture of her riding a white horse in battle, in her glinting armour, cape flowing against the blue sky. It symbolised life as an adventure and a crusade... In summer there were lots of Ladybirds in the garden on a plant with tiny purple flowers and I liked counting their spots and calling them Joan.”