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The Ladybird Book of the Hangover etc

Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris

(London Times)

FOR children growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, Ladybird books provided a simple and innocent introduction to the world. Fifty years on, the same generation is rushing to buy parody versions of the classic texts that provide a rather more acerbic perspective.

The new Ladybird books, which mimic the style and artwork of the 1960s originals, are the product of two comedy writers who have TV credits that include Miranda, and That Mitchell and Webb Look. Rosie is a member of a fitness club. There she has tried crossfit, spin and ultra-ballet. Her £600 annual membership meant that each visit last year cost £200 Jason's mid-life crisis started one Sunday morning in B&Q when he spotted a tub of boat varnish. 'I will never own a boat,' he thought to himself. Jason has never wanted to own a boat. But now, not owning one is all he can think about.

Four of the eight new Ladybird books are in the top 10 of The Sunday Times general hardback chart this weekend, and a total of seven are in the top 20.

The four books - How It Works: The Husband, The Ladybird Book of the Hangover, How It Works: The Wife, and The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness - are estimated to have sold more than 60,000 copies in just three weeks.

Demand is so great that Penguin Random House, the publisher that owns Ladybird, has printed 1m copies of the eight books. It has not printed so many copies so quickly since the success of Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James in 2012.

The series has been written by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, comedy writers whose television credits include Miranda and That Mitchell and Webb Look. While the content is different, the new books mimic the style and artwork of the originals, so the writers are described as JA Hazeley and JP Morris.

'A lot of the success is down to people, mainly in middle age, recalling how they had the books in their childhoods,' said Rowland White, the publishing director who oversees Ladybird books. 'Plus the really funny and witty words of Jason and Joel have helped hugely.' Richard Humphreys from the bookshop Waterstones agrees. 'Almost everybody will have a fond memory of the Ladybird books. The writers have taken the national treasure of the brand and produced these brilliant books.'

Ladybird itself began in 1914. These pastiche books are based on the 36-book Key Words Reading Scheme series begun in the 1960s and adopted by many schools.

The series became known as the Peter and Jane books because of the two children who featured in them, and focused on the postwar middle-class idyll of a housewife mother, breadwinner father and neat and well-behaved children. Tens of millions of the original books have been sold to date.

The new books, intended for adults, paint a far less idealistic - but perhaps more accurate - picture. In How It Works: The Husband, readers are informed that he runs 'on sausages and beer' and 'hears as much as 30% of what is said to him'. The wife, according to the accompanying book in the series, 'measures out her life in meals. Even at breakfast, she is only three mealtimes from her first glass of wine'.

The books look set to dominate the pre-Christmas period when about a third of all book sales take place. 'We're finding that people are buying them as gifts, like a wife will get How It Works: The Husband for her husband as a tease,' said White.

Ladybird is now planning parental How It Works books in time for Mother's and Father's days, plus eight more for next autumn.

More books on Families

The Ladybird Book of the Hangover

The Husband: How It Works

The Wife: How It Works

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