I have a new category! I noticed a number of books that I wasn’t categorizing were falling into the biographical writing area, so I’ve hunted out a suitable logo for them, and am launching my new Real Life category with a book subtitled “The Biography of Kaye Webb”.
Now, if you are a reader of a certain age the name Kaye Webb will have a nostalgic blast as she is best known as the editor of Puffin Books and the Puffin Post magazine. When I was at Junior School they cottoned on to my bookish nature and a teacher recommended to my parents that I subscribed to Puffin Post. I think I might have been too young to really enjoy it. I used to read it with limited enthusiasm, I used to get quite anxious that I would be sent away to one of the Puffin camps to relive “Swallows And Amazons” or whatever. It did seem to me then to be coming from slightly a different era. I think if I had just been a couple of years older I might have felt different and reading this book it made me wish I still had those copies of the magazine to peruse.
Kaye’s name could be found in many lovely Puffin books and has there ever been an editor with such a palpable presence in the history of book publishing? Kaye’s story is certainly biography-worthy and Valerie Groves has done a very good job. Kaye was involved in the publication of popular war-time magazine “Lilliput”, and after the war she met and married ex- Prisoner of War illustrator Ronald Searle (of St Trinan’s and Molesworth illustrations fame). The failure of the marriage ten years later when he disappeared to France destroyed Kaye emotionally which she handled by throwing all her energies into her work.
An invitation to lead Puffin Books led her to set up the Puffin club (where did my badge end up I wonder?) and investing great amounts of energy into arranging trips and linking readers to authors like never before, all carried out in a no-nonsense robust middle-class 1960’s manner. This section of the book is a superb read as Kaye surrounds herself with a coterie of staff who would do just about anything for her and a set of authors ; Joan Aiken, William Mayne, Clive King, Noel Streatfield etc (there’s an evocative list of names) who become essential to her . In time children’s literature adopted a less privileged, more multi-cultural emphasis and Kaye gradually fell out of step with that and became more isolated but was still regarded by many as the grande dame of children’s books.
This is a really good read. It was great to put a life to a name. Valerie Grove has done a good job at bringing Kaye to life. A book about books. What better way to launch my Real Lives section.
So Much To Tell was published in 2010 by Viking