Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 7 – Yellow Ducks and Toy Soldiers

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 7 – another old blog post draft finally published!

Some of you may be familiar with the “First Thousand Words in …” series of children’s picture books for language learning by illustrator Stephen Cartwright (1947-2004)

These books by Stephen and long term / collaborator writer Heather Amery  have been published by Usborne Books in many different languages (at least 55 languages according to his 2004 Guardian obituary)  since 1979.

From the introduction to First Thousand Words in Cornish (2013/1979, Cornish language Usborne / Kesva an Tavas Kernewek)

Stephen Cartwright is famous for putting a little yellow duck hidden slightly in many of his pictures and picture books.

I have several of these attractive books, all pretty much the same illustrations, but with the different language words. There is a highly attractive pre-digital Toyshop page.

Without wishing to infringe Stephen’s copyright by showing a whole page, I was interested to see how he illustrated “Toy Soldiers” .


Drawn in the 1970s, the fascinating detailed cartoon pages in each book show lots of interesting details including typical toys from my childhood (and presumably those of his own 1950s/60s).

Soldats de plomb – soldiers of lead in Cartwright’s First Thousand Words in French and fusiliers with a fusil or rifle.

Looking through the rest of the book, the odd chunky  computer creeps into a classroom, whilst a video camera or  TV set might be updated easily to a more modern design flatscreen but otherwise the heart of the book remains as it was first made in the late 1970s.


Soudoryon is the Cornish (Standard Written Form) for toy soldiers.

Interestingly the French version still calls them soldats de plomb – lead soldiers – even though by the late 60s / early 1970s these had vanished from toy shops.

I shall have to look out what ‘Toy soldiers’ or ‘Tin Soldiers’ are called elsewhere in the world.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, Advent Day 7, Friday 7 December 2018