In 1964 Peter and Jane made their debut in the long-running Key Words scheme series published by Ladybird Books. In the same year, Peter and Jane in the garden was published by Golden Pleasure Books. Written and illustrated by Gwyneth Mamlok, this book shows some clear similarities with her series of Candy books, which followed a year later.
Peter and Jane in the garden could have been titled ‘Peter and Jane’s garden shed’. The story features an apple-cheeked brother and sister who decide to give their dusty old shed a makeover and turn it into a playroom.
The results are impressive – tablecloth, curtains and a vase of daisies and bluebells to accompany the tea service. This shed makeover has inspired me to do something similar with my own summerhouse.
If you’re familiar with the Candy books, you’ll notice that the boy and girl bear a striking resemblance to Candy and her best friend, Ginger. It seems that Gwyneth Mamlok was using the same children as models for the illustrations – possibly they were her own son and daughter.
The illustration style in Peter and Jane in the garden is markedly different from the Candy series. The heavy black outlines that make the figures in the later books so distinctive are not used here. Everything is neater and more controlled, with the colour wash backgrounds completely filling the double-page spreads.
Compare the figures of Peter and Jane’s parents (above, right), with this chic lady from Candy and the Golden Eagle. The couple above wouldn’t look out of place in a 1950s advert. The looser, more impressionistic rendition of the figure and the flowers below is one of the elements I love about Mamlok’s illustrations. Her backgrounds really come alive.
If you collect vintage children’s books from the 1960s, Peter and Jane in the garden is a lovely trip down memory lane. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into how Gwyneth Mamlok’s illustration style evolved during the mid-60s.