When I was young you could buy for 2/6d each: Regent Classics, hardbacks from Woolworths; Collins Children’s Press books, usually reprints and often abridgements of earlier editions; Puffin paperbacks. The best of these were of course the Puffins and the copies I’ve kept from childhood are among my most prized possessions.
This year, Penguin Books celebrates 70 years of Puffins. Many of the older ones have brief introductions by Kaye Webb, who was editor from 1961 to 1980. Very suitably, there’s a new biography of her by Valerie Grove: So Much to Tell, which I look forward to reading.* I’m also interested in Puffin By Design, which isn’t out yet.
Happy Birthday Puffin, on the web in rather startling colours, shows the modern Puffins available for ‘only’ £3.99. Is it just age that makes me think Love, Peace and Chocolate can’t be as a good as Carbonel or Charlotte Sometimes? The Puffin Handbook calls itself ‘The perfect little guide to the 70 best books for children’. It aims to tell adults about children’s books and is rather didactic in tone. You need to keep clicking on barely visible arrows to turn the pages and there’s plenty of them. It goes from Buggy Books *sighs for days of real prams*, through picture books and ‘young fiction’ to ‘fiction’. Along the way there’s advice on reading to your child and using libraries.
Searching for those 70 best books is rather hard work on that site and you’ll probably find the Guardian list is easier to read. Strange choices, do you think? The Guardian page includes a link to a 2008 article on classic covers from Puffin Post.
I seem to have been carping somewhat but where would we be without Puffins? A search on eBay just brought up 37,135 copies!
*Kaye Webb also edited and later wrote reviews of films and shows for Elizabethan. This is from January 1963 and makes me feel very old.