By Nicholas Tucker
Friday, 4 June 2010, The Independent
Their parent company, Penguin Books, began with a clear educational bias, with RA Saville-Sneath's Aircraft Recognition (1941) its best-selling title until the arrival of Lady Chatterley's Lover 19 years later. This self-improving image was also reflected in early Puffins, under the dedicated but prim control of Eleanor Graham, later the Puffin author of The Story of Jesus. Hearing that average readers could be expected to consume up to 600 books during their childhood, Graham rejected the offer of Enid Blyton stories as well as Tolkien's The Hobbit in her insistence on publishing only what she considered truly "good books" of undeniable quality.
Her policy necessarily narrowed the range until she retired in 1961, when she was succeeded for the next 18 years by the dynamic Kaye Webb, a former journalist and editor with no previous knowledge of children's books. Brought in by the Penguin supremo Allen Lane to correct what he saw as the "fuddy-duddy" approach of her predecessor, Webb - then aged 47 - was a product of the Sixties before her time.
The result was a plethora of ground-breaking picture books, stories and novels reaching out to new readers as well as established fans. Young people were made to feel valued as never before, with their various letters to head office invariably answered with "Love from Kaye". The extraordinarily ambitious Puffin Club was established in 1967, soon running to over 200,000 members .
Read the full, long and most interesting piece at The Independent online.