About the Beetles…

An email from the editor I worked with on the Joe & Jenny books reminded me that it might be worth while explaining a bit more about the idea behind the “Beetle” books.

Firstly many apologies to British readers. Those who grew up in the 1950’s, ’60’s or ’70’s will know the origins of this.

In my youth (and that of my sons), the Ladybird books were a widely read series of children’s books. Some were designed to help young children learn to read, some re-told familiar fairy tales and some explored different aspects of the world from transport to culture to history and so on. They featured a small format with original art and clear, simple text designed for the younger reader. They were immensely popular. The art is commonly available on line and gives you an idea of the range and quality of the books (The Ladybird Bookshop is a good source). The text style was distinctive to but that is harder to find on-line.

In 2015, artist Miriam Elia produced a spoof of one of these. Under the title “We Go To The Gallery” it explored the world of conceptual art through the style of a Ladybird reader. (Example line of mother and child confronting a Geoff Koons like dog. “I want to play with the balloon says John. Only venture capitalists can play with this balloon says Mummy.”)

This was followed by instant applause from readers and a lawsuit from the owners of the Ladybird copyright. Elia responded by re-branding the books slightly (as Dung Beetle).

Ladybird went on to produce their own parodies of themselves in a series “Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups“, including the “Ladybird Book of the Hipster” and the “Ladybird Book of the Midlife Crisis”. These proved to be best sellers in the UK. Elia responded with “We Sue an Artist (and then rip off her idea), the Dung Beetle guide to Corporate Intimidation, for ages 5+” (at least as cover art).

My own attempts simply piggy-back on this idea. I’m conscious (thanks to this post from the Artist Nimrod, complaining about folk ripping off his work) that I haven’t credited the photography for my Beetle Books. I use downloaded images from Tumblr and put them through an art filter to get the required result that vaguely resembles the original art style. I don’t know where many of them started out but many thanks to the OWK, Femme Fatale Films, the English Mansion and Woman Worship which were the original source of some of the images. My artistic input is, I guess, the same as Marcel Duchamp : I chose them.

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