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Puffin Classics at 30
As it marks a landmark anniversary, the children's publisher hopes to rival the appeal of video games, reports Genevieve Roberts. Leading authors cite their favourites

For a generation of children, it provided affordable editions of The Jungle Book, Pinocchio and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, alongside titles by Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Now, in an attempt to lure children away from computers and video games, the Puffin Classics collection, established 30 years ago, is to offer digital versions of its works.

"It's not an either/or for us. As we celebrate 30 years, it seems fitting to look at what the future holds," said Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin children's division.

Anna Billson, art director, spent more than two years redesigning the classics – maximum of three colours in addition to black and white, and using dramatically cropped images – working with illustrators such as Quentin Blake.

"Design is critically important to our publishing," she said. "Our challenge is to make books desirable: it's a great challenge. Books need to compete with other experiences and stand up to gaming competition."

To mark the 30th anniversary of the imprint, the author Jacqueline Wilson has written an updated "echo" of Edith Nesbit's Five Children and It, to be published in August and entitled Four Children and It.

Ms Dow says the collection has stood the test of time. "Not everything becomes a classic. It's a mix of compelling stories that can be endlessly reinterpreted for different generation, in an irresistible package."

Simon Scarrow

The Wind in the Willows

The most warm-hearted and idealised tale of English country folk ever written. Anyone who has ever lived in a small village will know Kenneth Grahame's Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad intimately. They were my friends when I was a child, and I still love them to this day.

Chris Bradford

Treasure Island

Maps marked with an X! The Black Spot! Pieces of eight! Dead man's chest! One-legged pirates with parrots on their shoulders! Robert Louis Stevenson singlehandedly defined our perception of pirates for ever. Johnny Depp has a lot to thank this literary giant for.

Phil Earle

Great Expectations

This is the book that opened my eyes to the joys of Charles Dickens. It has everything – comedy, tears, intrigue, unrequited love and a central character who you can't help but adore. This is the book that changed my opinion of the "classics".

Eoin Colfer

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The first book I read that perfectly captured the voice of a real boy. I had never been able to identify with or trust the legions of square-jawed heroes populating the pages of popular fiction, but Mark Twain's Huck hated formal clothes, liked to play hooky and just longed to float down the Mississippi on his raft.

Louisa Reid

Wuthering Heights

I think it has to be Emily Brontë's classic. Heathcliff and Cathy are so repulsive, but such utterly compelling characters. I adore their passion. My stomach churns at the violence and I wonder at the woman who wrote this novel at such a young age. An utterly original and engrossing book.

Meg Rosoff

A Little Princess

I'm not sure I could have survived childhood without Frances Hodgson Burnett. My sister and I would crawl into the attic of our suburban American house and pretend we were looking across London rooftops. We'd lost our parents and our money, but perhaps a mysterious monk would visit our miserable garret.


For the rest of the article


The Independent

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