Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'Mr Men' Turns 40

Is there any child in the English-speaking world who hasn’t read, or been read, a 'Mr Men' book?  I read them to my children and still read them to my grandchildren. While they aren’t what you would call brilliant literature, nor would the illustrations win too many major awards, they work! And they have been well-loved for 40 years! Children love them and will go back time and time again to read them.

The Mr. Men series consists of 48 books written by British author Charles Roger Hargreaves (1935-1988). His first book was ‘Mr Tickle’ which was published in 1971. The series features characters like Mr Tickle, Mr Sneezy, Mr Bump, and Mr Clumsy. Each story introduces a new character; all have a distinctive human feature relating to physical appearance or personality. The books typically have a single moral lesson to be taught.
Beginning in 1981 a related series of 42 Little Miss books was created with female characters. When Hargreaves died in 1988, his son Adam Hargreaves began writing and illustrating new stories. Four of these were for characters that Roger Hargreaves had commenced before he died.

The first six Mr Men books were published in United Kingdom in 1971 and cost just 20 pence each. Each book in the original Mr Men and Little Miss series introduced a different title character and his/her single dominant personality to convey a simple moral lesson. The Mr Men and Little Miss characters often pop up in the stories of other characters. The secret to the success of the books seems to be:
The very simple stories.
The brightly-coloured simple illustrations (there is little clutter).
The pictures and story tend to tell the same story, while this isn’t usually the mark of great picture books; it means very young children can ‘read’ the stories themselves once they have heard them once or twice.
The moral lessons appeal to parents and are accessible to children.
The books are small like the children themselves.
They have simple literal humour; some would say slapstick.
I can recall that when my children had grown up and we were downsizing our possessions that no-one wanted to get rid of the Mr Men and Little Miss books. So we still have them and I'm reading them to their children.

The books have sold over 100 million worldwide, have been translated into over 20 languages and the images have been used in many places as part of other merchandise and promotion. Many children have also grown up enjoying the TV series.

Other posts

Hopefully many readers enjoyed Google's 16 different 'doodles' as a tribute to the 'Mr Men' books in their 40th year, that coincided with Hargreaves' birth date (9th May 1935) with .

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