As I stood infront of my Ladybird collection this morning trying to decide what to write about today I paused for a moment to think about which of my Ladybird books has been most relevant lately based on what we’ve been up to and what we’ve been watching and reading elsewhere. It’s hard when we haven’t really been anywhere, but also because much of what I’ve been reading and watching has been set post-Ladybird. Modern dystopian fiction, a book about the “nanny state” (more about that excellent book by Stuart Maconie later) and also America during the Vietnam War (The Trial of the Chicago 7 – an excellent film that’s well worth watching and available over on Netflix). There was one film that we enjoyed with the kids though that did fit in perfectly with one Ladybird title: Hidden Figures.
Now, if you haven’t seen the film Hidden Figures then I urge you to do so. It beautifully tells the story of three of the black women who worked for NASA in the 1960s and their key roles in the race for space. As well as helping to educate the kids about the roles America and Russia had in exploring space, it also shows what it was like for black women in a mainly male white work environment in a segregated American state. It had both kids (now aged 8 and 10) asking questions about segregation, why it happened, how it was overthrown and racism today.
Ladybird certainly didn’t publish any books about racial segregation, their Achievements series (series 601) did include a title about Exploring Space. Published in 1964 this book includes mention of John Glenn who we saw in Hidden Figures, as well as mention of the Russians launching the first earth satellite in 1957.
Exploring Space concentrates much more on the technology behind man’s attempts to explore space than the politics and the “race” between the two countries. It was also of course written before man went to the moon, and that omission really makes it feel very of its time as we look back at it. The book talks about why man would like to visit the moon, and what it might be like, but of course this was all based on theories at the time.
With so much more known about space now, it is almost strange to think back to when we knew so little. When everyone would have to go round a neighbour’s house to gather round their TV (or one in a shop window) to follow launches and NASA’s progress. Now there are YouTube live feeds of pretty much everything, in amazing quality and with multiple camera angles. It’s lovely though to be able to show the kids what it was like and what we did know and understand at the time. If we were still home schooling you could say that Exploring Space would have hit perfectly together with Hidden Figures as part of a science lesson about the race for space.
Exploring Space was first published in 1964 as part of Series 601, the Achievements Series. It was written by Roy Worvill MSc with illustrations by B. Knight.
About Ladybird Tuesday
Ladybird Tuesday is a regular feature here on Penny Reads, where I delve into my Ladybird book collection and choose a title to share with my readers. The weekly series originally started on my old blog, Being Mrs C, and this post originally appeared on there. I’m now in the process of moving all those posts over to Penny Reads and also adding titles that I have acquired since then. A list is currently being compiled here of all the titles I have in my collection.