The past, present and future of “Mr Men and Little Miss” books as they celebrate their 50th birthday
Many good things start with a tickle. The Mr Men and Little Miss books are an example.
When Adam Hargreaves was six years old, he asked his father Roger what a tickle looked like – and an iconic series of children’s books was born.
Mr Tickle was published in 1971 and since then the series has sold an estimated 250 million copies – with another title sold somewhere in the world by the time you finish reading this sentence.
“It’s an extraordinary number of books, I find it quite mind boggling,” Hargreaves, now 58, says. He has spent the year reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Mr Men, who were joined by Little Miss characters in 1981.
There are now over 90 inhabitants of the Mr Men and Little Miss world, with each following the route forged by Roger that leads to the “holy grail”.
“That’s the holy grail, to come up with something that’s unique,” Hargreaves says. “Whether it’s simple or complex, it’s new and grabs everybody’s attention. That’s what my dad managed with the look of the Mr Men. He managed to encapsulate human emotions in the simplest form that you can imagine.
“There is an innate Britishness to them. The landscapes are very British, the interiors equally so, though stuck in the 1970s in terms of their interior decor. At the same time, they have a global appeal because they are little bits of human beings.
“The main ingredient of the success of Mr Men and Little Miss is the fact that we recognise ourselves in each of the characters – and each of the characters is a little bit of us.”
Roger Hargreaves became a household name as the books were adapted into an animated show with its memorably melancholic theme tune and wry narration by Arthur Lowe. But in 1988, at the age of 53, Hargreaves died after suffering a stroke.