Iconic Ladybird books - which have captured the imaginations of so many children - will be on display in an exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery next month.

'The Wonderful World of Ladybird Artists' exhibition opens on Friday, May 10, and recounts the history of the little Loughborough print business which became a giant in children's publishing.

Visitors will be greeted by a 'wall of books', showcasing just about every Ladybird book published between 1940 and 1980 - around 500 books in total.

Herts Advertiser: The 'wall of books' at the Ladybird exhibitionThe 'wall of books' at the Ladybird exhibition (Image: St Albans Museum + Gallery)

Books range from Peter, Jane and Pat the dog and What to Look for in Summer to classic fairy tales like Chicken Licken and The Three Little Pigs.

Visitors can leaf through more than 200 books in a 'summer meadow' installation of grassy rugs and comfortable beanbags, as well as enjoying interactive games.

The family-friendly exhibition was created by Ladybird book expert and curator Helen Day, who has spent more than 20 years collecting books and researching the company.

Launched in 2018, the exhibition has toured the UK and Helen has now achieved her ambition of bringing it back to her hometown.

Helen, who lives with her husband in Harpenden, was born in St Albans - where both her parents were teachers - went to Cunningham Hill Primary School and worked at Oaklands College for many years, before teaching English as a foreign language around the world.

She said: "I’m thrilled that the exhibition is coming home to St Albans. I’ll have a chance to show my friends, family, colleagues and students what’s been absorbing me over these years!"

A Ladybird book chosen specially to feature in the exhibition is Warwick the King Maker, as it refers to the Battle of St Albans which took place on May 22, 1455, and traditionally marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses in Britain.

Herts Advertiser: The exhibition will showcase around 500 Ladybird booksThe exhibition will showcase around 500 Ladybird books (Image: St Albans Museum + Gallery)

Displayed in the Weston Gallery, the exhibition will take visitors through different zones and themes including nature and the environment, history, fairy tales and learning to read.

Helen said: "For many years now, I’ve been interested in the history of Ladybird books and in the artists who illustrated them.

"I began as a collector, but my interest soon broadened into a desire to understand better the social history of Britain that the books contain.

"Ladybird books illustrated many childhoods, and the Ladybird artists gave us an interpretation of the 20th century in bright colour and careful detail."


Among the many artists featured, one to look out for is Martin Aitchison, who illustrated around 100 books for Ladybird from the early 1960s - including the popular Peter and Jane series and many fairy tales.

Martin was the only Ladybird artist Helen met in person, and they became friends before he died in 2016.

The exhibition, which is free to enter, runs until Sunday, September 8. 

Alongside the exhibition, there will activities taking place during May half term for both adults and children, including making a model ladybird, a ladybird trail and several talks.