Though my daughter’s bookshelves include a treasured cache of stories from my own childhood, all of the Ladybird books that I once pored over have long since vanished. There is no family attic to rummage through but I do retain a vivid sense of them as objects and one thing I know for sure is that they were nothing like the two Ladybird titles that landed on our doormat earlier this month.
A Bare Bear: A Book of Words That Sound the Same and In A Minute: Take the 60-Second Challenge! are both the work of Here Design, a group of thinkers, writers, designers and makers co-founded by graphic designer and Herbarium creator, Caz Hildebrand. Large, ultra-stylish (even the endpapers are a joy to behold) and, at £12.99 a pop, fairly pricey, they have a disconcertingly coffee-table feel. But they’re also clever, funny and charming, perfectly pitched to appeal to both little people (the suggested age range is 3-6) and their grown-ups.
Homonyms and homophones are the subject of A Bare Bear (if you need to brush up on your grammatical terms, there’s a handy explanation at the back of the book), with examples including a poor horse, who is rather hoarse, and a gluttonous moose, who loves chocolate mousse. My own favourite is the lazy boar who is, unsurprisingly, a bore.
In A Minute is my three-year-old’s favourite, featuring a series of challenges to be completed in 60 seconds, largely inspired by eye-popping feats, both human and animal. For instance, ‘A chatterbox can say 170 words in a minute. Can you?’ Or how about ‘A butcher can string 78 sausages in a minute. How many times can you roll like a sausage in a minute?’ Each verb appears in bold, italicised type, adding an extra dimension to the text’s teaching, while a couple of other challenges – how many things can you remember that you did yesterday, and the final, sleep-promoting ‘Try not to do anything at all for a minute. Close your eyes… don’t peek’ – seem to gesture to mindfulness.
I mentioned that these books are a little pricey. You could wait for the paperback editions to roll around but in the meantime, either would make a great present, falling into that valuable category of book that’s instantly appealing and yet meaty enough to engage over and over.
A Bare Bear and In a Minute are both published by Ladybird at £12.99.