Usborne’s ‘World of the Unknown: UFO’s’, 1977

The mandate of British publisher Usborne Books was to produce beautifully illustrated children’s publications, designed and written by its in-house team. The first wave of books Usborne released in 1975—which included the popular Spycraft—had sold well, and in 1977 the company followed it up with the World of the Unknown series: a triptych that included Monsters, Ghosts and UFO’s

Usborne’s ‘The KnowHow Book of Spycraft’, 1975

During the Cold War, a new archetypal establishment role joined the pantheon of soldiers, cowboys, and cops that often peopled children’s games: the spy. Equipped with false identities, given to using hidden surveillance devices, and communicating in strange codes, this newcomer was perfectly suited to the duplicitous, mistrustful mood that was the constant background noise of the times…

New Worlds for New Children: The Armada Sci-Fi Anthologies

By Richard McKenna

It’s one of the peculiarities of SF literature—and perhaps of genre writing in general—that the imagery generated to sell and promote it has often proved to be more visionary and transformative than the writing itself. Serious-minded SF fans are often heard complaining about this irony, claiming (not without some justification) that Star Wars, say, is not actually science fiction but rather fantasy, or just straight-up infantile dross…

The Uncoziest Catastrophe: Raymond Briggs’ ‘When the Wind Blows’, 1982

As the nuclear crisis between the Western powers and the Eastern Bloc deepened, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists‘ Doomsday Clock stood at four minutes to midnight, perplexed children across Great Britain were treated to the release of When the Wind Blows, a graphic novel by British artist Raymond Briggs that narrated the aftermath of a nuclear attack from the perspective of the Bloggses, a working-class couple who have recently retired to the country…