Thomas, Topsy and Tim

Every year we have some astounding anniversaries to celebrate, a testament to their quality and popularity. For this Spring edition we are celebrating 75 years of Thomas the Tank Engine and 60 years of Topsy and Tim.

Thomas and his friends are being treated to a new logo – a gold train to celebrate this momentous birthday. The stories came to life in 1943 originally written to entertain the author’s son, Christopher.  The first title was published in 1945.  The last original title was published in 1972.  Now all twenty-six of the Rev W. Awdry’s original titles have been published in one beautiful slipcase edition.  Each story is clearly set out as an individual and unique tale, although they do nicely follow on from one another of course!

Each story has its own title and series number which makes it rather like reading a chapter or even short story book.  It is possible to dive in where you left off or just to pick a story: maybe you have a favourite? What I also love about this special edition is the illustration. Egmont have carefully taken all the original illustrations and used every one of them sympathetically in the text of each story. With two or three illustrations per page the stories feel as fresh today as I remember from my own childhood.


Thomas and his friends have entertained children for the 75 years since their inception, in spite of having ceased publication over 40 years ago!  I think that this book and other anniversary editions will ensure this love continues and that new fans are found too. After all, Christopher so loved the stories that he took up the pen from his father and wrote yet more stories of this cheeky engine and his friend. 

Children love Thomas and his friends because they have great adventures and lots of fun – in this age of technological advances their simplicity is a delight.  In addition, Thomas and his friends have demonstrated the importance of friendship, teaching some valuable lessons and encouraging children to interact with one another, with the world around them and with books. The franchise now includes books to read, spotting books, sticker books and much more.


Thomas, the blue engine, and all his friends are now a part of our literary heritage. He is certainly a firm favourite on my bookshelf, including treasured early signed copies of books by Christopher Awdry.

Topsy and Tim are celebrating their 60th year with a gold badge on their latest Ladybird book. This story is one of the very first featuring these iconic twins. Topsy and Tim on the Farm, containing original artwork from the husband and wife team of Jean and Gareth Adamson who created these lovable characters. From starting school to learning how to swim and of course sharing their experiences on the farm as well as other exciting days out the twins are a go-to pair of characters for helping little ones to tackle their own very real adventures in the real world.

There are now 140 titles and sales of over 21 million copies. Plus you can find Topsy and Tim on Cbeebies, extending the adventurous fun for little ones. Unlike Thomas who was immediately adopted by Rev Awdry’s publishers, Topsy and Tim were initially considered unusual for their illustrations and it took longer for them to be accepted.  Now the scenes that were intended to reassure young children when they were having their first experiences of the world are considered to be the norm for children’s books!  We have a lot to thank Topsy and Tim and their creators for, plus Ladybird books for believing in them. In this, their anniversary edition, we join Topsy and Tim on the farm as they collect eggs from the hens, bring the cows in for milking and feed a calf – perhaps surprisingly this could actually still help a lot of children today but for different reasons – to help them understand what can and does happen daily on a farm. 

The inspiration for this title came from the authors’ own experience and they knew they were breaking new ground with their subjects, their illustration style and the idea that children might relate to the story. As with Thomas, Topsy and Tim feature on your editor’s bookshelf and on the day of writing this feature an original copy of Topsy and Tim Go Safely was found and duly added!

I hope this feature and these books will also help you to expand those probably already bulging bookcases!


Louise Ellis-Barrett

© 2020 by Armadillo

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