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Kaye Webb

Publishing Lives, Series 2 Episode 1 of 5

Robert McCrum explores the stories of five great British publishers.

Kaye Webb was a children's book publisher of genius who shaped the literary imagination of generations. Through Puffin, Kaye Webb created an immortal library of children's books.

Towards the end of her life, Kaye Webb told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs, "I've had very good luck in the working sense and not such good luck in the private sense". Her third husband - the cartoonist Ronald Searle - left her for another woman, and she brought up their twin children alone. Yet as her own family disintegrated, she built up an increasingly happy and motivated professional family at Puffin Books, which she took over in 1961.

Paperbacks were booming and children's publishing was entering a golden age, with Webb leading the way. Puffin acquired the paperback rights to most of the best children's writers of the day: Roald Dahl, Rosemary Sutcliff, Maurice Sendak, Raymond Briggs, Leon Garfield, Joan Aiken, Nina Bawden, Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes, Alan Garner, C.S. Lewis, and new authors such as Clive King, whose Stig of the Dump was one of Webb's most famous purchases.

Webb spent her final years in a wheelchair with arthritis. Sadly, the woman who produced so many happy endings for other people's children did not get her own.

Producer: Melissa FitzGerald
A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Tue 11 Apr 2017 02:15

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