Despite the fact we’ve only just said hello to the all-new, freshly baked Puffin website and this highly informative, unbelievably entertaining, and always impeccably-written blog, it seems it’s time for me to say goodbye. Yes, I’ve said goodbye to Puffin Towers, and I’m rather sad about it.
I first walked through the grand hallway on the Strand back in 2005; way before Percy Jackson had an inkling he was a demi god, before Max Gordon of Danger Zone knew his dad had been kidnapped by evil gangsters in Namibia, and before my fave Puffin character, Michele Jaffe’s Jas Callahan (of Bad Kitty) started solving crimes using eyeshadow and lipgloss to dust for prints. Effective and stylishly turned out. What’s not to love?
On plenty of occasions, working at Puffin has opened the doors to a flood of childhood memories. The first time I spotted Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell on the picture book shelves, I sat down (a tad too hard to be frank. Ouch) on a table and was instantly transported to my old single bed, lying there whilst my mum read me to sleep. I had forgotten all about the book until that moment, but as soon as I saw it I remembered exactly what was under each and every flap.
When I met Jill Murphy, the glamorous creator of The Worst Witch on a train to the Cheltenham literary festival a few years ago, I was pretty starstruck. It is not an exaggeration to say that I was OBSESSED with Mildred Hubble when I was little. I read all the books feverishly and repeatedly. I went through a six month phase of insisting on watching the movie when I came home from school every single day. I subjected my younger sister to endless rounds of the Worst Witch variation of hide and seek, where the hider jumps out at the seeker to make them scream.
Sometimes, she didn’t even know we were playing. Which added to the fun. And my best friend and I called each other Millie and Maud well into the age that it stopped being cute and started being a bit weird.
Working with Jan Pieńkowski, the illustrator of Meg and Mog and much more besides, felt, at first, somewhat surreal. I had grown up on his primary-coloured images, and loved not just Meg and Mog, but their owl friend Og too. (I have no idea why I liked witches so much…) I took a nice lady from Sky TV to Jan’s jaw-droppingly beautiful house and into his attic studio. It was like stepping into a fairyland. The huge room was painted white, there was a swing hung from the ceiling beam (‘for inspiration’ Jan told me) and scattered around were sketches and rough drawings. I felt very, very privileged to be there.
You know that feeling when you’ve finished a book, and you’re just dying to find out what happened next? Working as a publicist at Puffin, often, I’ve been able to do just that – by asking the author! How cool! Once by Morris Gleitzman is probably the Puffin book I have the most emotional attachment to. It is beautiful, simple, lyrical and incredibly moving. I think it is a wonderful, important book and have been overjoyed at the brilliant reaction it’s had from schools, local award committees and the media. But what happens to Felix at the end? Does he escape from the Nazis? And what about Zelda? Morris, who is writing a sequel, was happy to let me know. You’ll have to wait until Then comes out next year…
Perhaps my favourite thing about working at Puffin has been my fellow Puffinistas, or rather, their fashion sense. Where else can you come to work dressed in every colour of the rainbow, in prints and patterns, stripes and stars and polka dots and know full well that there’ll always be someone in the office who’s turned out just as brightly? We are always as colourful as the covers on the dizzying array of books we publish.
Bye bye Puffin; I’ll miss you.
Jodie; Ex-Publicity Manager and now Intrepid World Traveller