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John Berry

This Ladybird version of Black Beauty is huge compared with the normal size Ladybird: think Ladybird book x four and you have it. This edition was published in 1979. I wondered if this was the first version Ladybird had published - surely not - but I can't find any earlier versions. They have since done other editions, though which illustrators they have used I haven't yet been able to find out.

John Berry, who did this one, was one of Ladybird's chief illustrators, and worked on the People at Work series. He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy, but was unable to take it up when the Second World War broke out. Berry volunteered for the RAF, and after a poster he produced was spotted by Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, he was seconded as a war artist. Berry began working for Ladybird at the end of the 1950s, and carried on until work from them began to dry up in the early 1980s.

His Black Beauty must then have been amongst the last of his works for Ladybird. The text is of course much abridged (by Audrey Daly) but it's a skilful adaptation, which captures the flavour of the original. There are colour pictures on virtually every page, as you would expect from Ladybird. The quality of the illustrations is, I think, uneven, but some of them are sublime, in particular the mare and dog, and the foal on the front cover.

Ladybird, Loughborough

1979, 4to, 57 pp.