MR MEN AND LITTLE MISS
With today being the 76th birthday of the late children’s author Roger Hargreaves, what better way to celebrate than with an ode to the original Mr Men and Little Miss books, of which he was the creator and writer.
No self-respecting 80s or 90s child grew up without the influence of the Mr. Men. An initiation into childhood, there was a book for everybody. Myself, I clearly had a deviant side as my favourite books were those with the naughty characters or incidences where things didn’t go to plan.
Top of my list were undoubtedly Little Miss Helpful who created all manner of mayhem such as ruining Mr. Happy’s convalescence and causing Mr. Tall to trip over, and on the male side, Mr. Greedy – anyone who could eat a whole packet of cornflakes in one sitting was my kind of guy! Not for me the good natured Mr. Happy, or well-meaning Little Miss Sunshine, oh no, I wanted to see Mr. Mean giving his brother a piece of coal!
The Mr. Men stories were great for so many reasons, and not least because adults got just as much joy from reading them too. I have spent many a happy hour as a grown up flicking through the series and reminiscing fondly over all my favourites. One of the reasons for this is that, although written simply, there was also a lot of humour and the miscreants in the tales could delight the most impatient of listeners and readers.
The illustrations too were perfect, with each character being drawn to match their name – Mr. Bump wrapped in bandages, Mr. Nosey with a giant nose and Mr. Small being well, small! In bold bright colours with striking black outlines and simplistic detail, the images brought the words to life in a way that even small children could appreciate. Some of the pictures which particularly stick in my mind are Mr. Strong lifting a barn full of water to put out a fire and Mr.Small covered in mustard!
There was always a moral element to the tales, although not in a preachy way, and problems would always be resolved by the end of the book. As an adult I’m always amazed at how skillful Roger Hargreaves was in fitting so much in so few pages. There was also a spin-off TV series, which was just as popular as the books. (Editor side-note: this narrator in the below clip made me laugh out loud… Why is he highlighting the fact that Mr. Happy is… Errr… ‘Fat’. What’s that got to do with anything? Not very PC is it? LOL!)
Hargreaves was an advertiser turned author, his first book was Mr. Tickle and once he had overcome the struggle of finding a publisher, it became an instant success. Unlike some televised books, the Mr. Men and Little Miss animations were interpreted to perfection, and the tales remained faithful to the original stories. Add this to spectacular narration and a fantastic theme tune which instantly lifted your spirits, and you had a match made in heaven!
By the end of his life, Hargreaves had written more than 40 Mr. Men books and over 30 Little Miss ones, and the series is still going strong today, especially as his son Adam stepped into the reins and created a whole host of new characters for children of today to enjoy, although of course, you can’t beat an original.
By Tanya Clark
The Mr Men and Little Miss books I remember having were Mr. Messy, Little Miss Splendid and Little Miss Scatterbrain, which is kind of ironic really, but I’ll let you work out why. LOL! Check Miss Splendid below! Hilarious! I don’t remember it being THIS funny as a kid. And watching it now, I have to say I’m not even 0.000009 per cent as ‘splendid’ as Little Miss Splendid! She is TOO much!
DID YA KNOW?
- Roger Hargreaves wrote his first Mr Men book, Mr. Tickle in 1971.
- His Mr Men books sold one million copies in their first three years.
- The first of the Mr. Men characters is reported to have been created when Hargreaves’ son Adam asked him ‘what a tickle looked like?’
- Hargreaves also had other notable children’s books series including Timbuctoo (which featured animal characters named after the sounds they make, e.g Oink, who was a ‘sort of pig’ ) and also his Roundy and Squarey books, which I also remember well from back in the day.
- After Hargreaves passes away after a sudden stroke in 1988, which is why his son Adam took over the reigns, continuingnwriting and drawing the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters in new stories.
- In 2004, Hargreaves daughter Christine sold the rights to the Mr. Men characters to UK entertainment group Chorion for £28 million.
- The books, which have been part of popular culture for over 30 years have sold over 85 million copies and been translated in 20 languages.