For weeks now our house has been coated in a thin layer of Mister Men and Little Miss books. We have about 70 of these brilliant little square paperbacks, and both girls love them. My three year old carries bundles of them around the house in little bags. She pages through them looking at the pictures, trying to sound out the names, and laughing her head off. It takes her ten minutes to select just the right set to read at bedtime. My five year old will also grab a stack and try to wrap her brain around the stories and the British vocabulary.
The funny thing is that my wife and I amassed our collection before we had kids. My wife had fond memories of reading them while she babysat during high school and we figured our future kids would love them too. A good friend of ours thought we were nuts. He said you can only read a book so many times before it rots your brain. Kids often want their parents to read books twice that many times. His strategy was to shun all children’s books until he had to read them in hopes of not crossing the misery threshold with some of them. We ignored his advice and blissfully read on, and so far we’re still big fans of the Mister Men and Little Misses.
Roger Hargreaves started writing stories about the Mister Men in 1971. Mr. Tickle, his first, was 30 pages of bold colorful illustrations accompanying a funny story of a little man with extraordinarily long arms and a love for tickling people. Roger went on to write 47 books about the Mister Men and another 34 about their female counterparts: the Little Misses. His son Adam has continued to write them since Roger passed away in 1988.
In some ways, all these books are similar. The characters are fairly one dimensional. Some are good (like Mr. Happy and Little Miss Fun), some are bad (like Little Miss Bossy and Mr. Mischief), and some just are what they are (like Mr. Tall and Little Miss Shy). The bad ones often (but not always) learn a lesson at the end. But the books are also quirky and unpolished–you never really know what’s going to happen. Some stories have odd twists (Mr. Perfect), others just peter out (like Little Miss Curious), and a few go right where you think they’re going (like Mr. Daydream).
On the back of every book is a picture of every single Mister Man or Little Miss. Both girls love poring over these tiny portraits. The characters have distinctive colors, shapes, shoes, and hats and they often show up as secondary characters in other books. Recognizing them in the stories and finding them on the backs of the books is great fun. I have a feeling our whole family will be reading these stories for years to come.