Minor British Institutions: The Mr Men

Before the Mr Men (and then Little Misses) came along, children’s literature and illustration was a rather fussy affair. The refreshing simplicity of Roger Hargreaves’ cartoons with their bold colours and typeface was only matched by the charm and intricacy of the tales, and, when they came to TV, the brilliance of Arthur Lowe’s narration.

In 1971 the first volume, Mr Tickle, was published, the character apparently inspired by Hargreaves’ young son Adam, who asked daddy what a tickle looked like. Aaaah! The Mr Men were often intellectually challenging, even Mr Scatterbrain, Mr Nonsense and Mr Silly. Mr Worry, for example, worries about everything.

He worries about his roof leaking when it rains, and also about his plants when it doesn’t rain. So a wizard makes him write down all his worries and solves them. But, after a week, Mr Worry goes back to worrying, because he has nothing to worry about.

Hargreaves, who died in 1988, was obviously possessed of an unusual blend of creativities. Little Mr Adam ended up succeeding him, and the rights were sold to Chorion Group in 2004 for £28m, the deal presumably having been negotiated by Mr Clever and Little Miss Brainy

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