They were the wholesome educational aids which taught generations of children the basics of everything from cake decorating to nuclear power
But now Penguin Ladybird Books have tapped into the ‘kidult’ trend, launching a series of books which promise to help with modern day problems such as ‘mid-life crises’, hangovers and dating.
While the original books reflected an idealised world of happy nuclear families and endless promise, the new editions are darkly comic.
“When we’re young we wonder if we’ll be a surgeon or an astronaut. We can be anything we want to be. Then one day we can’t,” begins The Ladybird Book of the Mid-Life Crisis
Author Joel Morris, who helped write the new books said: “That bit makes me cry. It’s too close to the bone.”
Morris said he wanted to help adults make sense of the world, just as the original books had helped children fathom the workings of cars and steam engines. Other titles include The Ladybird Book of The Hipster, and Mindfulness.
To keep the books looking authentic all the new editions use artwork from the Ladybird archive, although Morris admitted that he struggled to find appropriate images.
“In the original books Mum is at home with the kids and Dad is at work fixing a Lancaster bomber”, Mr Morris told The Independent newspaper.
“It’s hard to find images that have men and women in the same picture. Luckily, that’s become part of the joke.
“It’s like being allowed to mess about with a national treasure,” he said. “It’s like repainting Saint Paul’s.”
Although it is the first time that Ladybird has allowed spoof versions of the books, the internet is awash with imaginary modern titles which include: ‘Timmy’s First Riot’ and ‘Bombs made easy’
Last year, artist and comedian Miriam Elia was threatened with legal action after publishing a satirical Ladybird book called We Go to the Gallery, in which Peter and Jane get to grips with cutting-edge conceptual art.
The classic hardback pocket-sized Ladybird Book was Bunnikin’s Picnic Party: a story in verse for children with illustrations in colour, which was produced in 1940. In the 1960s and 1970s the company launched a Key Words Reading Scheme which was heavily used by British primary Schools and featured Peter and Jane.
The books were eventually withdrawn from print with the closure of Penguin’s factor in Loughborough in 1999.