Look and Learn was one of the most contradictory children's weeklys ever to appear. Launched in 1962 as the brain child of then editor Leonard Matthews, a man whose post war career had been steeped in creating some of the most successful children's comics in UK publishing, it's aim was simply to inform and educate it's readership whilst not losing the essential ingredient of entertaining it's potentially fickle audience.
Not an easy task; the concept of creating a magazine that parents would happily endorse and children would equally happily read had few successful precedents. Matthews solution was to employ the best writers and artists, including some of the greatest comic strip artists of the day to create stories, strips and articles that would present the worlds of science, history, wildlife, literature and travel in as vivid and entertaining a way as possible.
Hence was born Look and Learn and this fabulous book with very little pre-amble represents some of the most visually arresting pages from Look and Learn's twenty year history. Suprisingly the pages still retain the freshness that the images held when they were first published, this is in part due to the editor's wise decision to concentrate much of the collection on Look and Learn's unerring ability to present history as if it has just happened. This was always one of the great strengths of the magazine and the fact that illustrators of the stature of Ron Embleton, Peter Jackson, Frank Bellamy Septimus Scott, Fortunino Matania, James McConnell and John Millar Watt were able to have free reign to illustrate texts vividly recreating some of the most seminal moments from times past provided it's youthful audience with the ability to engage with events that had hitherto been largely the provenance of the comparatively dry and dusty world of school text books.
The fact that the information presented could be argued to have an unashamedly Anglocentric slant is in no way an impediment to the coverage presented in these pages. Never has the Great Fire of London, the Battle of Agincourt or the Romans landing in Britain been presented with so much conviction, there have been a slew of publications in the wake of Look and Learn attempting to carry the baton but the literacy and artistry that this volume so guilelessly represents has yet to be equaled, let alone bettered.
There were also opportunities for whimsy and a delight in classics of children's literature and the inclusion of such icons of childhood lore as the Pied Piper, Robin Hood or Dick Turpin sit quite comfortably with the science-fiction fantasy of Don Lawrence's Trigan Empire, which again manages to retain a freshness which belies it's age.
The energies of the team that has put together this superb volume have to be admired, not only have they sifted through some twenty years worth of of magazines but in many cases they have managed to source the original artwork, so that many of the illustrations are now printed at their optimum best.
All in all this book is a must have, a great book to dip into, a great resource for creatives seeking visual references, the most palatable aid to homwork conceivable and a beautiful book to have on your shelves.