Celebrating 80 years: Read the story behind the story of Puffin books

Celebrating 80 years: Read the story behind the story of Puffin books

We’re celebrating 80 years of Puffin!

Since 1940, millions of children around the world have grown-up dreaming of big friendly giants, magical wardrobes and spiders named Charlotte. They’ve imagined rivers of chocolate, green sheep and bunyips, dogs called Spot, and very hungry caterpillars. Here’s how Puffin’s story began . . .

The first ever Puffin books weren’t fiction, but in fact… factual, released at the start of World War II to help children understand the evacuations. Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, realised that with so many city kids in the country for the first time, there would be a renewed interest in the natural world, and so, in 1940, along with books like War at Sea, titles like Animals of the Countryside appeared. In that same year, the first female editor at Puffin, Eleanor Graham, set out during an air raid to discuss the launch of a paperback series, Puffin Story Books. In 1941, the first fiction books for children were published, including Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd.

In the decades that followed, titles like Charlotte’s Webb, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory appeared alongside some of the most popular picture books in the world, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where’s Spot? which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary.

In Australia, 1963 saw the release of Kangaroo Tales, followed by the Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek and John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat, which is also enjoying its 40th anniversary. Soon the list was brimming with bestsellers, with authors like Paul Jennings, Morris Gleitzman, Felice Arena, Graeme Base and many more proving that there was a huge appetite for books that Aussie kids could relate to.

 From its beginning, Puffin Australia was committed to sharing Australian stories, building the Australian identity and providing quality literature for children, an ethos that exists to this day. To help ‘turn children into readers’, The Puffin Club was launched, with Australian members receiving badges and Puffinalia magazine, which featured children’s own stories.

So what does 2020 bring? In Australia, the publishing program is as vibrant as ever, with diverse voices, indigenous creators, debut writers, and firm favourites. Highlights include the Aussie Kids series, the Bluey books, which are the bestselling books of the year so far, and the What Zola Did series by Melina Marchetta.

‘We are so thrilled with how these Puffin books are being received,’ says Laura Harris, the Publishing Director, Young Readers, at Penguin Random House. ‘I am especially excited about the What Zola Did series. As Melina herself says, it’s so important that kids see their own stories reflected in literature, and this is what this series does.’

In a nod to those first non-fiction Puffins published, 2020 also sees the launch of the Puffin Little books, a factual series for budding environmentalists, scientists and cooks. Stay tuned for more on these, as we love this series and how relatable they are for Aussie kids in current times.

Finally, as for any birthday, there is a huge list of people to thank for such a wonderfully diverse and long-standing commitment to quality children’s publishing: the authors, the illustrators, the publishers, the editors. A special mention should be made of the champions of Puffin books: the book sellers, the book buyers, the parents, the teachers, and the wonderful, wonderful librarians. But most importantly of all, thank you to the big dreamers, the kids. Thank you for sharing these stories and making them part of your childhood.

Dream big. Read Puffin

Worzel Gummidge was one of the first fiction titles published, in 1941.

Puffin logos over the last 80 years: The Porpoise and Peacock imprints were phased out, whilst the current little puffin morphed from that shown on the bottom right hand corner, to the current one shown on the top left.

Better Reading Kids website has been taken over by Puffin – click here for the cutest puppy ever! 

 

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Synopsis

Zola loves living on Boomerang Street with her mum and her nonna. Every day of the week is an adventure. But Zola has a problem. No matter how much she tries, she can't keep out of trouble! Seven stories in the series - one for every day of the week. From the bestselling author of Looking for Alibrandi.

Publisher details

Where's Spot? 40th Anniversary Edition
Author
Eric Hill
Publisher
Penguin
Genre
Children’s Picture Book
Released
18 May, 2020

Synopsis

A special 40th anniversary edition of the very first lift-the-flap book featuring everyone's favourite puppy - the lovable Spot.Join the hunt to find lovable puppy, Spot, in Eric Hill's first ever lift-the-flap tale!Lift each flap to find all sorts of funny animal surprises, before discovering where cheeky Spot has been hiding. This is the perfect first book for little ones - the playful text is a wonderful spur to read and respond together, and the hide-and-seek flaps encourage curiosity and interactivity.This is a special anniversary edition of this much-loved classic, with a ruby cover to celebrate 40 years since the first publication of Where's Spot?.

Publisher details

John Brown, Rose & the Midnight Cat
Authors
Jenny Wagner, Ron Brooks
Publisher
Penguin
Genre
Children’s Picture Book
Released
01 January, 1977

Synopsis

Rose lived with her dog, John Brown.`Just the two of us,' said Rose, until the mysterious midnight cat came along, and things began to change. 

Synopsis

‘I, Willy Wonka, have decided to allow five children to visit my factory this year.These lucky five will be allowed to see all the secrets and magic.’Phizzwhizzing new cover look and branding for the World's NUMBER ONE Storyteller! Mr Willy Wonka is the most extraordinary chocolate maker in the world. And do you know who Charlie is? Charlie Bucket is the hero. The other children in this book are nasty little beasts, called: Augustus Gloop - a great big greedy nincompoop; Veruca Salt - a spoiled brat; Violet Beauregarde - a repulsive little gum-chewer; Mike Teavee - a boy who only watches television.Clutching their Golden Tickets, they arrive at Wonka's chocolate factory. But what mysterious secrets will they discover? Our tour is about to begin. Please don't wander off. Mr Wonka wouldn't like to lose any of you at this stage of the proceedings . . .#8 in the Top 50 Kids' Books 2019 - Older Readers 

Publisher details

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Author
Eric Carle
Publisher
Penguin
Genre
Children’s Picture Book
Released
26 June, 2003

Synopsis

A much-loved classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won over millions of readers with its vivid and colourful collage illustrations and its deceptively simply, hopeful story. With its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes to explore, this is a richly satisfying book for children.#1 in the Top 50 Kids' Books 2019 - Younger Readers
Ron Brooks
About the author

Ron Brooks

Ron Brooks has illustrated many children's books, including those considered to be classics of Australian picture book publishing:John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat and The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek. Both these picture books have earned world-wide recognition and critical praise. Old Pig was named Best Book of the Year 1997 by the New Yorker and the Chicago Tribune. Recently Ron illustrated two beautiful companion picture books, Henry's Bed and Henry's Bath, written by his wife Margaret Perversi.

Books by Ron Brooks

Jenny Wagner
About the author

Jenny Wagner

Jenny Wagner lives with her husband, their dog and three lazy cats in a small Queensland farmhouse that looks like a witch's cottage. The garden is full of possums, lizards, goannas, frogs, scrub turkeys and other birds. Sometimes a couple of wallabies come to visit, too.Jenny likes writing best of all, unless it's going badly, in which case she hates it. She also likes going for walks, listening to classical music, studying languages, doing cryptic crossword puzzles, getting together with friends and putting off the vacuuming.She likes two-minutes noodles with tomato paste stirred in, brussels sprouts and good coffee.She doesn't like racism, cruelty to animals or people, or getting up early.As well as her best-selling novels featuring the nimbin, Jenny Wagner has also written several very successful children's picture books.The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek and John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat both won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Ward (Picture Books) and are widely considered to be classics.

Books by Jenny Wagner

Eric Hill
About the author

Eric Hill

Eric Hill was born in London and attended Pooles Park Elementary and Tollington Park Central schools until the outbreak of World War Two. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, 12 year-old Eric was evacuated to the small village of Bluntisham in Huntingdonshire. But he returned to London for Christmas and stayed there for the rest of the war.Eric left school at fifteen to start his first job with a shipping office in the City. The following year he joined an art studio as a messenger. This was a bigger break than he had imagined, because at the studio was a well-known Austrian cartoonist, named Tim, who encouraged him to start drawing cartoons. Gradually Eric became more of an art assistant than a messenger and spent more time at the drawing board under Tim's guidance. Tim was a superb artist and cartoonist and later had his own BBC TV show for children.After a stint with the Royal Air Force in Germany, Eric Hill returned to the studio again. His cartooning work began to be published in national magazines and newspapers. He started a weekly strip for the London magazine Illustrated and did small story sketches for Lilliput. After a year of drawing cartoons, Eric Hill left the studio and joined the art department of an advertising agency as a visualiser. The next important step was an appointment with F.H.K Henrion at Erwin Wasey, a large advertising agency in Park Lane. In 1976, Eric's son Christopher was born. When Christopher was two, Eric made up a story to read to him at bedtime about a small puppy. The extraordinary success of Where's Spot?, published in 1980, gave Eric Hill the confidence to work full-time as an author. The second title, Spot's first Walk, was published a year later. The publishing phenomenon that is Spot was born! There are over 40 million books in print read by children in more than 100 countries. The adventures of Spot have been translated into 65 languages, including minority languages such as Inupiaq, Occitan, Frisian and Farosese. Spot has different names around the world including Spotty (Italy), Dribbel (the Netherlands) and Fleck (Germany)! The animated TV series has aired in over 80 countries and the films have been included in the permanent collection of the prestigious Museum of Television and Radio History in New York as an outstanding example of British children s programming. A recent study by UK-based Millard Brown reports that Spot has 99% awareness amongst UK parents and 83% amongst children. In 1983, Eric Hill and his family moved to California. He was appointed Office of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours. He died aged 86 on 6 June 2014, at his home in California.

Books by Eric Hill

Roald Dahl
About the author

Roald Dahl

When he was at school Roald Dahl received terrible reports for his writing - with one teacher actually writing in his report, 'I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means. He seems incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper!'After finishing school Roald Dahl, in search of adventure, travelled to East Africa to work for a company called Shell. In Africa he learnt to speak Swahili, drove from diamond mines to gold mines, and survived a bout of malaria where his temperature reached 105.5 degrees (that's very high!).With the outbreak of the Second World War Roald Dahl joined the RAF. But being nearly two metres tall he found himself squashed into his fighter plane, knees around his ears and head jutting forward. Tragically of the 20 men in his squadron, Roald Dahl was one of only three to survive. Roald wrote about these experiences in his books Boy and Going Solo.Later in the war Roald Dahl was sent to America. It was there that he met famous author C.S. Forester (author of the Captain Hornblower series) who asked the young pilot to write down his war experiences for a story he was writing. Forester was amazed by the result, telling Roald, 'I'm bowled over. Your piece is marvellous. It is the work of a gifted writer. I didn't touch a word of it.' (an opinion which would have been news to Roald's early teachers!). Forester sent Roald Dahl's work straight to the Saturday Evening Post. Roald Dahl's growing success as an author led him to meet many famous people including Walt Disney, Franklin Roosevelt, and the movie star Patricia Neal. Patricia and Roald were married only one year after they met!The couple bought a house in Great Missenden called Gipsy House. It was here that Roald Dahl began to tell his five children made-up bedtime stories and from those that he began to consider writing stories for children.An old wooden shed in the back garden, with a wingbacked armchair, a sleeping bag to keep out the cold, an old suitcase to prop his feet on and always, always six yellow pencils at his hand, was where Roald created the worlds of The BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many, many more.

Books by Roald Dahl

Eric Carle
About the author

Eric Carle

Eric Carle is an internationally bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator of books for very young children including his most well-known title The Very Hungry Caterpillar. With his late wife, Barbara, Eric Carle co-founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts in 2002. Eric Carle divides his time between the Florida Keys and the hills of North Carolina.

Books by Eric Carle

Melina Marchetta
About the author

Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta is a bestselling author in more than twenty countries and eighteen languages. She has published award-winning young adult, fantasy and crime fiction, including her acclaimed crime novel, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil. Her much-loved Australian classic, Looking for Alibrandi, swept the pool of literary awards when it was published, and was also released as a film, adapted by Marchetta, winning an AFI Award and an Independent Film Award for best screenplay, as well as the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award. The companion novel to Marchetta’s award-winning book Saving FrancescaThe Piper's Son, also received much acclaim in Australia and internationally, and in 2009 Marchetta won the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association for Jellicoe Road. She lives in Sydney.

Books by Melina Marchetta

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