Puffin Books

Puffin Books is a longstanding children's imprint of the British publishers Penguin Books. Since the 1960s, it has been among the largest publishers of children's books in the UK and much of the English-speaking world.[1] The imprint now belongs to Penguin Random House, a subsidiary of the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.

Puffin Books
Parent companyPenguin Young Readers Group (Penguin Random House)
Founded2 April 1940 (1940-04-02)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationLondon
Key peopleFrancesca Dow (managing director)
Publication typesBooks
No. of employees50
Official websitewww.puffin.co.uk


Four years after Penguin Books had been founded by Allen Lane, the idea for Puffin Books was hatched in 1939, when Noel Carrington, at the time an editor for Country Life books, met him and proposed a series of children's non-fiction picture books, inspired by the brightly coloured lithographed books mass-produced at the time for Soviet children.[2][3] Lane saw the potential, and the first of the picture book series were published the following year. The name "Puffin" was a natural companion to the existing "Penguin" and "Pelican" books. Many continued to be reprinted right into the 1970s. A fiction list soon followed, when Puffin secured the paperback rights to Barbara Euphan Todd's 1936 story Worzel Gummidge and brought it out as the first Puffin story book in 1941.[4]

The first Puffin editor, Eleanor Graham, saw the imprint through the 1940s and the struggles with paper rationing, and in the 1950s Puffin made its mark in fantasy with tales such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Some other notable titles whose paperback rights were acquired by Puffin included The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett, which Puffin published in 1942, the Professor Branestawm books by Norman Hunter (1946), Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1949), Carbonel: The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh (1955), and The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier (1960). Many different genres featured in the list, e.g. The Puffin Song Book (PS 100), 1956.

1960s to 1970s

In 1961, Kaye Webb became Puffin's second editor, as a boom began in children's publishing, and in a decade the Puffin list grew from 51 titles when she took over to 1,213 in print by 1969. Puffin obtained the paperback rights to many of the best writers of the time, including Philippa Pearce, Rosemary Sutcliff, William Mayne, Alan Garner and Antonia Forest, all-time classics including Mary Poppins, Dr Dolittle and The Hobbit, and originals such as Stig of the Dump by Clive King. The books were promoted with flair through the Puffin Club, started by Kaye Webb in 1967 with the promise to Allen Lane that "It will make children into book readers". Though by 1987, it had become uneconomical and evolved into the schools-only Puffin Book Club, at its height the club had 200,000 subscribers and held regular Puffin Exhibitions, and its magazine Puffin Post appeared quarterly for many years, resuming publication in January 2009.

Colony Holidays (predecessor to ATE Superweeks) ran Children's Literature Summer Camps for members of the Puffin Book Club. Fifty or so children from all over Britain who loved reading would spend a ten-day holiday together, and popular children's authors such as Joan Aiken, Ian Serraillier and Clive King would spend a few days with them.[5] Web continued as editor until 1979, and the 1970s saw Puffin further advance its position with hits such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Picture Puffins

The range of Picture Puffins, introduced in the late 1960s for younger children, also developed rapidly. Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Janet and Allan Ahlberg's Each Peach Pear Plum became and have remained firm children's favourites,[2] as have Eric Hill's Spot the Dog and Jan Pienkowski's Meg and Mog books from the 1980s.

1980s to 1990s

The 1980s saw Puffin taking full advantage of popular culture with film tie-in publishing, forming close links with Disney and other production companies. It was at this time that Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone introduced the concept of adventure gamebooks to Puffin which grew into the Fighting Fantasy phenomenon.[2] The 1980s also saw the launch of the Puffin Plus line of young adult fiction, a market earlier catered for by the imprint Peacock Books. In 2010, the young adult line was relaunched as Razorbill.[6]

The 1990s continued to see new writers join Puffin and in the 21st century the brand still shows heroes and heroines familiar with children such as Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, Max Gordon, Mildred Hubble and Scarlett, while stars such as Kylie Minogue and Madonna have written for Puffin.[2]

Puffin Post

Puffin Post was a children's books magazine published by Puffin Books.[7] It was launched in 1967 by Kaye Webb, editor of Puffin Books.[7] It declined after Webb retired in 1982, but was relaunched in 2009 through the bookseller The Book People as a bi-monthly magazine.[7] The magazine was discontinued again with the November 2012 issue.[7]

The magazine contained a mix of stories, jokes, interviews, competitions and quizzes, and reader contributions.[7] At its height, it had more than 200,000 readers.[7] Prior to 1982, contributors to the magazine included well-known authors such as Alan Garner, Roald Dahl, Joan Aiken, Leon Garfield and Spike Milligan.[7] After the 2009 re-launch, contributors included Charlie Higson, Cathy Cassidy and Michael Morpurgo.[7]

See also

  • UK children's book publishers
  • List of largest UK book publishers


  1. Puffin Children's Books changes its logo for the first time in 40 years Archived 2009-03-20 at the Wayback Machine Press release, April 2003
  2. The History of Puffin
  3. Puffin Picture Books, Stella & Rose's Books
  4. Daniel Hahn, The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (Oxford: OUP, 2015), p. 479.
  5. http://www.campaignforsummercamps.org.uk/downloads/how-summer-camps-could-change-britain.pdf
  6. Nuffin Like A Puffin, Book Brunch, 26 April 2010. Accessed 15 August 2010.
  7. Alison Flood (17 December 2012). "Puffin Post to become extinct". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2012.

Further reading

  • Phil Baines (2010), Puffin By Design: 70 Years of Imagination 1940–2010. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-14-132614-X.
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