Thoroughly Modern Miffy: Dick Bruna's cartoon rabbit gets revamp after 58 years

The classic children’s book brand worth £150m is set for an update to appeal to new audience

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The Independent Culture

She can certainly challenge for the title of the most popular rabbit in the world, despite some tough competition from Br’er, Peter, Roger and Bugs.

Fifty years after her first appearance in print in the UK, Miffy, whose series of books has sold more than 85 million copies worldwide, is to get the chance to charm a whole new audience.

The children’s division of publisher Simon & Schuster have announced that the young rabbit, created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna, will see a number of her books updated “to appeal to a modern British audience” with Bruna’s original rhyming verse to be revamped by award-winning poet Tony Mitton.

Miffy, Miffy at the Gallery and Miffy at the Zoo are the first titles chosen. They are scheduled for release in February 2014.

Miffy sprang into being in 1955, while Bruna was on holiday in the Dutch seaside village of Egmond An Zee. Every night Bruna would tell his son Sierk a story about a little white bunny that would scamper around the garden of the home they were staying in, with that rabbit becoming the inspiration for his most famous character. The books made it across to the UK eight years later.

The 86-year-old, whose love of art was cemented by hours spent drawing and painting when his family moved to a house in the Dutch countryside during the Second World War, still spends months at a time creating new Miffy books using a brush and poster paint.

Bruna has said that while he tries to keep the drawings simple, he spends a long time on Miffy’s mouth, making it seem either a little happy or a little sad depending on her feelings – despite the fact that it is only modest cross.

His fiercest critic, and normally his first editor, is his wife Irene, to whom he has been married for 60 years. When Bruna believes he has finished a new Miffy book, he lays it out for his wife to see.

He waits for the look on her face to see if she approves or not. He has said that during this time he is “always very nervous”.

Having been translated into more than 40 languages, the Miffy brand is reportedly worth upwards of £150m a year, with merchandising revenue also playing a part.

Dick Bruna at the opening of his exposition of Miffy creations (AFP)

A film based on the character was released in the Netherlands this year, selling 100,000 tickets in the first month, and was subsequently released in Belgium, Japan and Australia. Simon & Schuster is looking to take advantage of Miffy’s success by also releasing a number of sticker activity books in conjunction with the new hardback books.

Meg Wang, who serves as editorial director of licensing at Simon & Schuster, said of the deal: “Generations of British children grew up with Miffy – and now  as parents, are introducing this loveable and iconic character to their own children.”

She added: “Dick Bruna’s stories explore the extraordinary wonder of everyday things in a child’s life – which have proven to be both timeless and universal.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing Miffy to a wider audience in the UK.”

The publisher will also be releasing a new version of Bruna’s internationally best-selling nativity tale Christmas in October this year, to celebrate Miffy’s revamp.

The Utrecht-born artist and illustrator is in the middle of quite a resurgence, having already seen his first picture book, The Apple, republished by Tate Publishing this month, to celebrate its 60th anniversary.