Shopping with mother

Ladybird book Shopping with Mother illustrations

I grew up on Ladybird books. I think my original copy of this one, Shopping with Mother, fell to pieces. It may be the root cause for my ever-since obsession for all things retail.

My favourite image in the book these days (and, I suspect, those days) is the chemist shop.  Setting aside the mother’s nice 1950’s suburban Dior-esque suit and hat, her lovely bunch of daffodils and enviable basket with blue trim (the daughter has a matching mini one) you can just taste that nice ‘chemist’ lettering in red and chrome. It looks to be a 1930s shop, still going strong in 1958, when this book first came out.

We had a nice old chemist where I grew up. I can still smell it. Cardboard strung with tortoiseshell and pink combs. The spinning display of hairnets, nail files and sundries for I knew not what. Gingham plastic hair slides – I loved them. Behind the counter stacks of secretive mahogany drawers with glass handles and gilded Latin lettering. Cough sweets. Nivea. A chair to sit on whilst waiting for a prescription to be filled.  Clear plastic rain hoods. A wooden floor, worn down the centre. Dandruff shampoo. Pastel coloured face flannels. Skin-sandpaperish natural loofahs.

And big purple, blue and red coloured-water filled glass bottles with elaborate chunky stoppers set high on a shelf in the window.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Shelf Appeal if I didn’t hunt for the font used in the book.  It seems to be called Ladybird and after a hand-lettered start, the company retained it exclusively.

Series 563, of which this book is part, was entitled Learning to Read and was authored by ‘expert’ M E Gagg and beautifully illustrated by J H Wingfield. I’m sure I did learn to read from this book. But I also began to read shops through it, too.