Puffins or Bookword on Lundy Island

There’s a loose association here and I’m going to work it. Bookword and grandson went to Lundy Island towards the end of August. Where is Lundy? Everyone who listens to late night radio in Britain (and beyond) has heard of Lundy: Fitzroy, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea … These names are from the famous incantation of the Shipping Forecast. Lundy is a small island, 3 miles long and less than 1 mile wide, about 11 miles off the coast of Devon. Most of its landmass occupies a plateau at about 90 – 130 metres. It’s like a little bit of Dartmoor dropped in the sea.


The name of the island, in one explanation, comes from the Old Norse. Lundi is Old Norse for puffin and ey means island. Putting them together we get Lundy, or Puffin Island. Puffins are what Lundy is famous for. Here’s the invisible join: Puffins.

Penguin books were introduced by Allen Lane. I wrote about the important revolution by Allen Lane, establishing quality paperbacks in 1936 after waiting on Exeter Station. Just four years later he added Puffin Books with Noel Carrington, the first editor.

Since the 1960s Puffin has been one of the most industrious and successful publishers of children’s books. The first in 1941 was Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd, (who also also wrote Miss Ranskill Comes Home which I reviewed here.)

My own childhood tastes in reading were encouraged by the annual pre-holiday family trip to WH Smiths to buy two Puffins each. In this way I read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett all the Narnia series by CS Lewis along with many others. I think I owe my love of reading to those endless days in campsites and on beaches in France, lying on a campbed, the grass or sand with a Puffin Book. Once my two choices had been devoured I would begin on the books chosen by my brother and sister. Here’s my 8 year old grandson, on Lundy Island, following the tradition:

A colourful history

Lundy lies where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean. Administratively it is part of Devon. There is evidence of occupation or visitation from the Neolithic period onwards. There are Bronze Age burial mounds.

It has a lively history, owned by the Knights Templar, disputed by the Marisco family. The duke was implicated in the murder of one of Henry II’s household, and the king sent troops to the island. Henry III built the castle in an attempt to restore order. It was occupied by Barbary Pirates, supported the Royalist side in the Civil War, went through a period of lawlessness before being sold more than once. It was given to the National Trust in 1969 and is now leased to and managed by the Landmark Trust.

Over to you

I have great affection for these Puffin titles. As you can see from the photo of those I still own, many of them are historical novels. I loved those by Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff in particular. I don’t know what happened to the other Puffin books I once devoured. They were probably handed down to the younger brothers and sisters – we were a large family. Do you have favourite books from childhood? Do they stand the test of time?

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Filed under Books, Books for children, Reading, Travel with Books

5 Responses to Puffins or Bookword on Lundy Island

  1. Anne Gore

    My father encouraged me to take “The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe” out of the library. I used to go to the library in Pinner on a Saturday and take out my three books and aim to get one read, returned and replaced before the library closed on Saturday afternoon. I remember loving the book until the awful moment when Aslan dies. I sobbed and sobbed and yelled downstairs to my father “Aslan’s dead, Aslan’s dead!” His reply was “Read on darling!” This is one of my favourite moments from my childhood.

  2. Helen Ashley

    The few books I had as a child had to be given away to younger cousins and I don’t remember much about what they were. My memories of Puffins come from my primary school teaching days. I think my favourite time of day was reading stories and poems to them, and I still have: ‘The Puffin Quartet of Poets’; ‘The Adventures of Tim Rabbit’ and ‘Magic in my Pocket’, both by Alison Uttley (far superior to Beatrix Potter in my opinion!); and ‘How the Whale Became and Other Stories’ by Ted Hughes. I even managed to quell a riotous bunch of 8-9 year-olds with his: ‘How the Bee Became’.

    • Caroline

      Haha! The power of poetry, it even quells 8/9 year olds!
      I remember some lovely Alison Utterly books too. And some Puffin poetry books, although they too have moved on to new younger owners I think.
      Thanks for this Helen.

  3. Marianne Coleman

    Not a Puffin, but my best childhood, inspirational reading was The Hobbit. I still have my hardback copy complete with ragged paper jacket published 1956. But I loved the Narnia books and Noel Streatfield plus Rosemary Sutcliffe and Geoffrey Trease. Caroline I share with you the jot of seeing a grandson engrossed in a book.

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