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95. Penguins & Puffins…

95. Penguins & Puffins…

One of my proudest moments in life was when a friend asked me what she could do to get her baby to read as much as me. From what I have experienced, and have read on the topic, the only answer I could give was: read to him growing up, and hopefully he will stay interested and start reading on his own. If this was true for me, it was down to two things: my parents reading to me and buying me books, and Puffin Books.

For those of you who don’t know, Puffin is the children’s branch of Penguin Books, founded in 1940 and still going strong. Probably the strongest memory I have of junior school, (ages 8-11), was the day when, once a term, the Puffin Book Club magazine would arrive. This was a catalogue of the best of books for kids, and students (at least, those who loved reading), would take it home, peruse it, and pester their parents into writing them out a cheque or money order, (for any readers under the age of about 30, click here for details).

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Puffin Club badge and certificate photo, courtesy of Thin Puffin

This was the second most exciting day of the term, but it didn’t even come close to the day, maybe a month later, (actually, it could have been three days, I don’t think my temporal perception was so hot when I was an eight-year-old), when the often grey-haired teacher would struggle into the classroom under several shrink-wrapped bundles of those Puffin-logo’d books from a range of genres and authors, the only one of whom I remember clearly being the ubiquitous and incredible Roald Dahl.

(Heartbreakingly, I learned in my research for this blog entry that the Puffin Book Club recently closed down. Sniff).

I grew up knowing that I was going to enjoy pretty much anything printed by Puffin, and it proved to be genius advertising and branding, since as an ‘adult’ I smoothly transferred my loyalty to the slightly more grown up sibling bird, Penguin. I recently bought and devoured two gorgeous, illustrated histories of the two companies, ‘Penguin By Design: a cover story 1935-2005′ and ‘Puffin By Design: 70 years of imagination 1940-2010,’ both by Phil Baines, and learned an awful lot about design and imagination.

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From Penguin’s innovative use of colour-coordination on covers to inform the reader of the genre contained therein, to the evolution of the instantly recognisable Penguin and Puffin logos over the years, I was most excited to get to my era and recognise so many of the books which constituted my most formative years.

There were also sections on the different offshoots and box sets which, as a completist collector, I have become so addicted to. My favourite is the recent Penguin Great Ideas series, which has grown to feature 100 beautifully designed ‘best of’ works from some of the greatest and most influential authors of all time, and which I hope to eventually own all of. Those of you who have been with me since the start of this blog may remember my excitement at finding the first box set of twenty books way back in entry 12, and the photos I took of them.

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If you were to create a personal ‘Brand Awareness’ survey just for me, my number one wouldn’t be Coca-Cola, McDonald’s or Marlboro, (none of which I partake in), but the book logos which surround me. No prizes for guessing which the most prevalent would be.

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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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84. ‘The Rights Of The Reader,’ Daniel Pennac…

‘The Rights Of The Reader,’ Daniel Pennac

In a bookshop containing thousands of books, how does one manage to arrest my roving eye? There are several effective tactics, but featuring illustrations by the legendary Quentin Blake, (and, indeed, just his unmistakeable font on the spine), is a good one. I had recently discovered a few unknown Roald Dahl’s and bought my first from his successor, David Walliams, and today I unearthed, bought, and read in swift succession this gem of a teacher’s/parent’s/reader’s manifesto from Frencman Daniel Pennac, excellently translated by Sarah Adams.

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Pennac presents a four-part presentation of reading, and how children go from seeing it as something magical to something dreadful and drudgeful. The first part was my favourite: a tour of childhood, and how books at bedtime lead to the joy of reading for oneself which left me quite misty-eyed and nostalgic. Part Two sees students sinking beneath the weight of books which have become bricks, books chosen for them by their teachers, and these students learning to repeat what every teacher wants to hear: that ‘reading matters,’ even if they don’t really perfumebelieve it. Part Three sees a solution: read aloud to students and children, no matter how old they are, epitomised by the image of the wonderfully pungent opening chapter of Patrick Süskind’s ‘Perfume’ being read to a class of wary students. Finally, we are presented in Part Four with Ten Commandments for readers:

“1. The right not to read.

2. The right to skip.

3. The right not to finish a book.

4. The right to read it again.

5. The right to mistake a book for real life.

6. The right to mistake a book for real life.

7. The right to read anywhere.

8. The right to dip in.

9. The right to read out loud.

10. The right to be quiet.”

The book is small, sharp and funny, (Pennac subtitles ‘The right to mistake a book for real life’ as “A Textually Transmitted Disease”), and perfectly accompanied by Blake’s scribblings. The magic of childhood reading is beautifully evoked, and points are supported by quotations on reading and education by authors as varied as Roussea, Kafka and Flannery O’Connor. It’s not surprising the book is now over two decades old: keep an eye out for it.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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