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23/09/2015 09:42 BST | Updated 24/09/2015 08:59 BST

Spoof Ladybird Book 'We Go To The Gallery' Aims To Explain Modern Art To Children

A comical spoof of the traditional Ladybird books featuring Peter and Jane is gaining attention on social media.

We Go To The Gallery written by Miriam Elia features similar characters to Ladybird's Peter and Jane, and a key word formula that is just like the one found in the 1960s books, while poking fun at the modern art world.

In Elia's tale, the two children and Mummy go to a gallery and learn about sex, death and contemporary art.

The book was inspired by the idea that people often feel unable to explain works of modern art in plain, simple English.

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When asked to describe her book, Elia simply said: "it's conceptual napalm".

She told HuffPost UK Parents: "The idea of the book was the culmination of years of mounting frustration with contemporary art. But once the idea popped into my head, I was completely committed to making it.

"I think it's been popular because it articulates how a vast majority of people feel about contemporary art - bullied into silence.

"Audiences are repeatedly told by the arts establishment that they ‘don’t get it,’ which effectively silences any criticism. Nobody wants to feel stupid, fussy and old-fashioned.

"We Go To The Gallery will allow the public (including young children) to clearly understand the key themes and concepts behind the work, so they can ‘get it’ and make up their own mind."

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In the Peter and Jane key words Ladybird books, words are introduced gradually and frequently.

The aim is to build confidence in children when they recognise these key words on sight - Elia replicated this in her own book.

Elia funded the initial 1,000 copies of the books through Kickstarter, managing to raise just under £5,000.

To create the book, she wanted to match the illustrations to those in the original Ladybird books.

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Elia said: "I read a lengthy interview with one of the last Ladybird book illustrators Harry Wingfield.

"He never revealed the secrets of his technique until late into his retirement, so I was lucky to find the interview.

"He settled in a small northern town, and found local children to dress up as Peter and Jane and use as life models. Once the children were photographed, he would collage them into various town or country scenes.

"These were then painted over with goache and watercolour, creating a photo-realistic feel. I used exactly the same technique (collage, painting), and then used digital manipulation at the end to clean the colours. I even went to the north of England to find my character models."

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Elia self-published the book as an 'artist's edition' with 1,000 copies. However, because it had the Ladybird icon on it, Penguin, who own rights to the Ladybird books, accused Elia of copyright infringement.

Elia removed the original book from sale and went back to the drawing board.

She amended the book by changing the icon and changing the name of the children (from Peter and Jane to John and Susan) to create the second edition of the book, the commercial edition that is now available to buy.

After printing 5,000 copies of the new edition, they all sold out. So Elia decided to print a more affordable mass-market edition: 8,000 of the 20,000 copies have already been shipped out.

The book is now the first in a series of learning books designed to make "scary" subjects approachable for the under fives.

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The new commercial editions of 'We Go To The Gallery' are published by Dung Beetle and are available in stockists throughout the UK now for £8.99..

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