All Things Puffin

Diana Wynne Jones’ Power of Three

powerofthreePower of Three by Diana Wynne Jones

ISBN: 0140310584
This edition: 1976 (first Puffin publication).
First published by Macmillan, 1976.
Cover by Graham Humphreys

My copy: purchased used, from Better World Books (US)

Power of Three is one of my very favourites by Diana Wynne Jones, and one of my favourite “younger days” books, but I’ve never seen this edition until recently. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that DWJ had been published by Puffin before. I found out about this edition when I saw it in the list of “new Puffins” on the back of one of the Puffin Posts; I immediately went online to search for a copy. Which is another sort of new thing for me – up until then, most of my Puffin purchases had been random. I’d be looking for a title with a vague cover in my head, a memory from the past, and sometimes they would turn out to be Puffins. But this time I actively searched for a Puffin edition of a title, and it made me want to seek out other favourites in Puffin editions.

I’m not sure what I think about the cover. Because I saw it after having read it many times over, and because it’s one of my favourite titles, I could easily imagine that they are Ayna, Gair and Ceri. But if I didn’t know anything about the book I might have thought that it was a historical fiction, which I don’t generally like, and I probably wouldn’t have read it as a kid. (I don’t like the cover I first read much, but at least it looked like a fantasy.) It’s definitely not a cover that I liked on sight, nor one that would make me pick it up. And yet – it’s the fact that it has a Puffin logo on it, and that it’s so different from the other Power of Three covers I’ve seen, that made me want this version so much.

All Things Puffin

Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes

balletshoesBallet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Book Number: PS41
This edition: 1968 reprint (first Puffin ed., 1949.)
First published in 1936.
Illustrated by Ruth Gervis, cover by Victor Ambrus

My copy: purchased used, from Kitazawa Shoten (Tokyo)

The first time I read this book, I was already in my early teens. This wasn’t one of the books available at the National Library, and I probably would have grown up in a Streatfeild-less world if it wasn’t for the fact that an old, battered copy lay in my school library.

Yasmin, my best friend at the time, was a school librarian (we had student librarians who do the kind of things a library page would do; I was one myself until I transferred to this particular school) and I would spend time at the library with her before heading back home together. Our school – and its library – was very old, and even though we get donated new titles every now and then there was still one bookshelf with very old books, the sort that would probably have been weeded out of the collection in other libraries. Ballet Shoes was one of these books.

I don’t know what made me pick it up – the title wasn’t all that appealing to me – but I did, and it was probably one of the most enchanting things I read that year. I never remembered Streatfeild’s name, though, and only carried a dim memory of the book, like a pleasant dream half-remembered that I would think to every now and then. It might have disappeared from my thoughts completely if it wasn’t for the movie You’ve Got Mail, many years later, which contained this conversation:

CUSTOMER: Do you have the shoe books? BOOKSELLER: Who’s the author? CUSTOMER: I don’t know. My friend said my daughter has to read the shoe books, so here I am. KATHLEEN: Noel Streatfeild. Noel Streatfeild wrote Ballet Shoes and Skating Shoes and Theatre Shoes and Dancing Shoes and. I’d start with Ballet Shoes. It’s my favorite. Although Skating Shoes is completely wonderful. But it’s out of print.

That was a huge “aha!” moment for me. All of a sudden I remembered the book all over again, and all the things I felt reading it for the first time, and I was determined to track down a copy to reread. Of course, as the movie mentioned, it was out of print. Thankfully,  it got reprinted together with some of the other shoe books around the time I was already working as a bookseller, and I made sure that we had all of the available shoe books ever since. I have an Orion hardback reissue of this book, but I was over the moon when I stumbled upon this Puffin edition while book hunting in Tokyo.

All Things Puffin

A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner

houseatpoohcornerThe House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

ISBN: 0140361227
This edition: 1992 reprint
First published in the US by Dutton, in 1928
Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

My copy: purchased used. I don’t remember where I got this copy from, but it was most probably from one of the used bookstores in Bras Basah, Singapore.

My introduction to Pooh and Christopher Robin and all their friends from the Hundred Acre Wood was not in reading this book, or even Winnie-the-Pooh. It was in the Disney animated feature The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh from 1977. I had it in VHS and I remember it being one of my most-watched videos back then, together with Disney’s Dumbo and Robin Hood. (Somehow I managed to miss the whole “princess” phase, even if I did occasionally watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, until I was much older and fell for the bookish Belle in Beauty and the Beast.)

I get tempted by various editions of the Pooh (and other Milne) books all the time now, but both my main reading copies, as well as my copy of Now We Are Six (somehow I do not own a copy of When We Were Very Young) are used copies from various book hunts. Even during the years when I went through various children’s classics stocked at the National Library, I didn’t come into contact with Pooh, and it stayed that way until I was at least fifteen, on one of my trips to Payless Books, my favourite used bookstore back then. I found a very old Dutton copy of Winnie-the-Pooh, which I picked up and paid for, despite the price being a little too steep for me at the time. I blew an entire week’s worth of pocket money, but I was happy. I was reunited with Pooh and Christopher Robin and Tigger and Piglet and Eeyore (my favourite then, and now.)

At the back of this edition is an excerpt from the book that makes me both sad and happy always:

illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Pooh thought for a little.

“How old shall I be then?”


Pooh nodded. “I promise,” he said.

All Things Puffin · thinking out loud

In which I’m obsessed with Puffins

some of the Puffin Classics reissues, photo by my friend Eeling
some of the Puffin Classics reissues, photo by my friend Eeling

I had been getting into the habit of buying books from AbeBooks, since I keep looking for childhood favourites that are no longer in print, or particular editions that are out of print. As more and more of them turn out to be Puffins – not that I have a lot now, most of the ones I read as a kid were from libraries – I began to remember how much I loved seeing that logo when I was younger, and how much I had wanted to be in the Puffin Club. (I couldn’t be, of course. I didn’t know if they allowed for overseas memberships, but my parents wouldn’t let me join anything international anyway, and I doubt we could have easily afforded such a thing.) These days, I look out for Puffin editions of my favourite books whenever I’m on another AbeBooks hunt, or when I happen to be in secondhand bookstores.

Last week I was cataloging some of my books on LibraryThing and had to scan the covers of the Puffins, as they retain the same ISBNs with each reissue. It made me want to look up previous covers and have them all up somewhere, especially since I started to end up with Puffin editions of books that I already own from other publishers. Or the same books in various Puffin editions. And earlier this year Chris (from Calmgrove) reblogged Tyger Tale’s post on the Puffin Annual which made me look up issues of Puffin Post, and I guess I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with all things Puffin again. Continue reading “In which I’m obsessed with Puffins”