How do you reinvent some of the most beloved nature guides ever published for British children? Natasha Durley may have the answer.
The illustrator's vibrant and playful images have adorned everything from murals to toys. This month, a series of Ladybird books aimed to bring a new curiosity and awareness of nature to the next generation of readers.
Based on the original Ladybird picture books written by E.L. Grant Watson and illustrated by Charles Tunnicliffe in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this new iteration of the What to Look for... series will celebrate and modernise the original series of the same name thanks to Natasha's handiwork and author Elizabeth Jenner. Moving sequentially through all four seasons, the books explore the changes and exciting events observed in nature from spring to winter.
"Tunnicliffe was an absolute master at capturing those atmospheric nature scenes," Natasha tells Creative Boom. "I enjoyed giving a friendly nod to the originals by sometimes retaining a similar composition but with a modern take, which was more harmonious with my style."
The artist was obsessed with anything nature-related as a child and loved the original books for their weird and wonderful animal facts.
"I would pour over the illustrations, imagining what these creatures were like in the wild. It’s so strange to remember reading nature books as a kid, and now as an adult, I get to be the one creating them."
James Stevens, the Art Director at Ladybird, suggested that some of the internal pages have a diagrammatic layout. When it came to the covers, Natasha would accordingly lift elements from these pages and have fun composing them on the cover. Keeping things relevant to modern times was also the name of the game as she created.
"The ’Starlings in Flight’ page within the Autumn book is one example. Not only did I illustrate starlings in flight over an urban landscape that a kid of today could recognise, but Elizabeth Jenner ends the chapter explaining the current situation starlings are now facing."
"There are far fewer starlings in the United Kingdom than there used to be and they are now endangered here."
Let's hope the next generation learns how to cherish these living treasures along with the rest of British fauna. The What To Look For In Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter series is out now on Ladybird Books; a further five titles in the series (Trees, Sea Creatures, Baby Animals, Animal Habitats and Insects & Minibeasts) will be published in May this year.