I wrote Ferocious for my daughter: at that stage it was called Bo’s Book. I showed it to Richard Mabey (who was the general editor overseeing The Hornsey Book at the time), he showed it to Kaye Webb. and she generously took it on. I then spent some months doing proper illustrations-for-print, twice up. Some of them I like, some I would like to disappear – lack of experience. Dorothy, my direct editor, caught me out drawing a horse standing entirely on its left legs, but she was very nice about (quite rightly) making me redraw – and very nice generally. Kaye was fine, a tough lady, but not excessively controlling. She wrote the last sentence, and I thought she had deserved to, really. We should have used the blue and gold cover, which was miles better, but because that might make other covers in different languages more difficult it was dropped in favour of an inferior pinky-mauvy number which could be over-printed (I also did that, so can’t grumble too much).
It got some good opinions, and sold quite well – some of my academic friends were amazed at the numbers. But as it was the first ever Puffin Original it needed to do better than that. However, the American President decided to drop a subsidy on school books in the States, or something of that order, as a result of which the Americans didn’t buy anything at the Frankfurt Book Fair that year, so we didn’t get a publication in the States. There was a meeting with someone from I think Random House, who wanted to put a yellow tone over all the drawings (ugh), and who had problems with the violence in some of them. “That cat” he said, “looks as though it is about to eat that mouse,” and I said “I have news for you..” Anyhow nothing came of it.
At that time my old friend David Austin had not become a professional cartoonist: he was teaching in primary at a school just under Battersea Power Station. Because of the connection, he took a batch of his feisty working class kids to a Puffin Club outing, where of course they ran riot. Thinking about it he said he supposed that Puffin Club was for lonely middle-class children who were neglected by their parents. Anyhow, on that occasion Kaye Webb said to Austin “Can’t you control these children?” and he said “No. Can you?”