For thirty years, Adam Hargreaves has been running his father’s Mr. Men and Little Miss empire, writing and drawing the books in Roger’s distinctive and timeless style. Since mastering the likes of Little Miss Sunshine and Mr. Tickle, a character actually inspired by Adam when as an eight-year-old he asked his father what a tickle looked like, Adam has gone on to create characters including Little Miss Fabulous and Little Miss Inventor. He has also created ten Doctor Who Mr. Men books, and this month is publishing a special World Book Day 2018 title – My Book About Me. For our March Q&A we spoke to Adam about writing his World Book Day title, creating new characters and adventures in the Mr. Men and Little Miss universe, and his favourite person to Share a Story with.
In 2016 Mr. Men celebrated its 45th birthday. What do you think makes the Mr. Men books internationally and continuously popular?
I believe the enduring popularity is due to the fact that each of the characters is a personification of a human emotion or trait and so we can all recognise a bit of ourselves in each of them and that is something that will never date. Happy, Grumpy, Naughty exist in all languages and so they can easily translate into different languages and cultures.
What was the most difficult thing to master about the entire Mr. Men and Little Miss style – the images, the sense of humour etc.?
Drawing a good, if not perfect, circle was pretty difficult as I have a more naturally sketchy style of drawing compared with my dad’s. It’s become second nature now, but nearly 30 years of practice helps!
Who is your favourite character? Which is the most difficult to draw?
My favourite character is Mr Silly, it’s certainly my favourite story. He encapsulates my dad’s silly, daft sense of humour. He is what the Mr Men and Little Miss are all about. Taking something and then turning it on its head to find the fun.
Your first original character was Mr. Cool. How do you decide to add characters to the brand?
Anniversaries are often a good excuse for a new character, but it is very much a discussion between myself, the publisher and Sanrio, the rights owners.
You’ve also devised lots of joint adventures for the Mr. Men and Little Misses. What do you enjoy about writing several into one book?
The FairyTale and Adventure series have been great fun to write and illustrate because it allows me to explore a wider world for the characters to interact in. I also like the fact that I get to draw lots of different things and animals and I have purposely drawn these series in a slightly more realistic style, so there is a bit more of me in them.
Can you tell us about creating the special World Book Day title, My Book About Me?
Sometimes I can spend ages struggling for an idea, but I came up with this story really quickly. My instant first thought was what would it be like if Mr Silly made a book and the rest flowed easily. My favourite part of the whole process is illustrating. I feel like the writing is the hard work and once I have a story then sitting down and illustrating it is the easy fun bit. I generally have a very good idea of what the picture will be when I am still at the writing stage.
We love hearing about all the different ways the characters read books. Do you have a favourite place to read? How do you choose which book to read next?
I have always been an avid reader, although rather slow, and I am never without a book, so you can find me reading pretty much anywhere.
Who is your favourite person to share a story with? Do you have a favourite book for sharing?
I used to love reading a bedtime book to my children. It was a very special time. I generally read them the books that I loved when I was a child. But they are grown up now, so no more bedtime stories, except for myself, of course.
How do you balance modernising the brand with keeping it true to its roots?
To be honest I don’t consciously try and modernise the series. My aim has always been to remain as true to my dad’s concept as possible, however it is inevitable that there is a certain amount of updating, particularly from a visual perspective.
What do you think is in the future for the Mr. Men and Little Miss stories?
With luck, more of the same. My dad created a wonderfully strong idea and hopefully the Mr Men and Little Miss books will continue to entertain more generations of children.
You can visit the Mr. Men and Little Miss website here. My Book About Me is available to buy with your World Book Day token now, and you can find out more about it, as well as the other World Book Day titles, here.