The original What To Look For series by Ladybird Books became an instant classic when it was released in the late 50s and early 60s, and still today, seeing the pages illustrated by naturalistic painter Charles Tunnicliffe stirs nostalgia abound. So it’s fair to say there was some pressure on Somerset-based illustrator Natasha Durley to “measure up” to these iconic titles when she was asked to refresh the non-fiction children’s series for a modern audience. But there was a more important subject at hand: how to update the books, not just stylistically, but in content. While the books still teach kids about nature through the seasons, they also now explore how these seasons have changed since the original titles were made.
“I think it’s more important than ever for children to feel connected to the natural world,” Durley tells It’s Nice That. “When the originals came out, the environment wasn’t the pressing issue it is today and technology, like the internet, wasn’t vying for everyone’s attention. I hope these books can play a small role in inspiring today’s children to be curious about the world around them and develop a love and respect for nature.”
As an illustrator whose practice is inspired by nature but often strays visually from real life, Durley’s challenge was to find a balance between imagination and documentary. “I enjoy going big and bold with colour palettes, so the main challenge was to stay true to the subject matter, yet still retain my love of colour,” she explains. “Thankfully, I had super art direction from James Stevens, who kept the balance just right. This allowed me more freedom to relax into the process, and after the first couple of pages, we landed on a look that balanced my style with the informative yet friendly ‘Ladybird’ feel.”