Write from my Childhood: Mr. Men and Little Miss Complete Collections
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of Mr. Men and Little Miss by British author, Roger Hargreaves, so I felt it was only fitting to write about why I love these books so much.
As a child I loved the simplicity of the stories, the unique characters, and the colourful accompanying illustrations. I had a lot of Mr. Men and Little Miss books as a child (but not the entire collections), but as I grew up, I think I gave them away. Last year, I came across the Mr. Men and Little Miss books again, this time as complete collections and decided to buy them, and I read them all again. My inner child couldn’t have been more delighted.
As I was reading these books again as both an adult and a qualified writer, I noticed that the writing of the stories weren’t so simple. In fact there were a number of aspects of the writing throughout the collections that I appreciated:
As I purchased the Little Miss collection prior to the Mr. Men collection, I read the Little Miss collection first. I found that multiple Mr. Men characters would make an appearance in not only one Little Miss book, but almost the entire collection. The Mr. Men characters make appearances more often in the Little Miss books then the Little Miss characters do in the Mr. Men books, as the Little Miss books made their appearance on book shelves and in our hearts a decade after the Mr. Men books. The only time in the collections that a Little Miss character makes an appearance in a Mr. Men book is when Mr. Brave invites Little Miss Bossy to tea in Mr. Brave – Mr. Brave was the first book in the collection published after the debut of the Little Miss books.
Puns and other plays on words
There are many puns and plays on words in the Mr. Men and Little Miss books, specifically when it comes to the names of towns and human characters. For example, Little Miss Sunshine visits Miseryland, the local doctor is Dr. Makeyouwell, Little Miss Magic lives in Abracadabra Cottage, Mrs. Parcel works at the post office, and so on.
Ambiguity on whether the Men and Little Miss characters are humans or aliens
The Mr. Men and Little Miss characters are unique in many ways, one of them being the ambiguous question of what species they are. While they live human-like lives, there have been some stories that seem to allude to the possibility that they may not be human. For example, in the Mr. Jelly book, a tramp (homeless man) is sleeping in the grass and is woken up by Mr. Jelly. When the tramp picks him up and holds him, it’s revealed Mr. Jelly fits in the tramp’s hand. In Mr. Daydream, the adventure the little boy goes on is a daydream, so there is the unanswered question of whether Mr. Daydream is real.
Even though the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters live human-like lives for the most part, there are still supernatural elements in the collections. For example, Little Miss Bossy revolves around the titular character being taught a lesson by a wizard, said wizard also appears in the Mr. Sneeze book. One of the Little Miss characters is Little Miss Magic, who has magical powers. Other supernatural beings that appear in the collections include but are not limited to: talking animals, a giant, Santa, goblins, and Walter the Worm.
Friendships and Family Connections
It’s made clear throughout the collections that not only do the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters live in the same world but they are all connected to each other in one way or another. On a basic level, they all live in the same world. Some of them are friends or acquaintances, and others are related to each other. For example, Mr. Chatterbox is Little Miss Chatterbox’s brother, Mr. Greedy is Little Miss Greedy’s cousin, and Little Miss Whoops is Mr. Bump’s sister.
One thing that I discovered about the Mr. Men and Little Miss books that surprised me was the number of meta references. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, the definition of meta is ‘showing or suggesting an explicit awareness of itself or oneself as a member of its category’. For example, in the Mr. Topsy-Turvy book, Mr. Topsy-Turvy is shown reading the Mr. Bump book upside down. The Mr. Small book ended with Mr. Small working for a writer who writes a book about him, with the narrator asking the reader if they liked the book. The Little Miss Whoops book reveals that Mr. Bump is her brother and that “he is just like his sister, if not worse, but that is another story (which you might have read)”, the accompanying illustration shows Little Miss Whoops on a train, sitting next to a boy reading the Mr. Bump book. The Little Miss Star book has multiple meta references with the narrator referencing the reader and themselves at one point:
“Twinkle Cottage was just outside Tiddlyville, which is a small town a long way from where you live. And even further from where I live!”
The Little Miss Star book ends with a book being written about her and the narrator pointing out to the reader that they’re reading it, with the accompanying illustration being the front cover of the book.
The Mr. Men and Little Miss characters and books have evolved over the last 50 years, expanding into a television series, comic strips, CDs, billboards, posters, and digital videos and books.
This year, to celebrate 50 years of Mr. Men and Little Miss, a global campaign was launched for the general public to decide which new Mr. Men and Little Miss characters would be turned into the classic books – the public decided on Mr. Calm and Little Miss Brave. Their books will be available to pre-order in September 2021.
Happy 50th anniversary Mr. Men and Little Miss! Here’s to the next 50 years!
All images from Google Images and www.mrmen.com.