Mr. Happy – Roger Hargreaves

More in the Series – Mr Men/Little Miss
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

There are no “Misses” in this book, so no Bechdel pass, and no diversity score really either.

This is a lot better than Mr Tickle. I mean, at least there’s no overt and awful consent violations in this one.

Mr Happy finds a door in a tree, inside of which he discovers Mr Miserable, who is just like him except not happy. He takes him home with him to happy land, and over time Mr Miserable learns to smile and be happy.

I’m in two minds about this. The first is that, you know, it’s not a terrible notion that sometimes sad people just need some love and attention and friendship to learn to be happy. What Mr Happy does is, when looked at this way, a kindness – he simply provides friendship and a good environment, and that’s enough to turn everything around for Mr Miserable. I’d be on board with this.

Except for the very last page in the book, which says: “And that’s really the end of the story except to say that if you ever feel as miserable as Mr Miserable used to you know exactly what to do, don’t you? Just turn your mouth up at the corners. Go on!”

And, well, you know, I’m not really convinced that we should be teaching kids to hide their real feelings and pretend to be happy. There is something to be said for the “fake it till you make it” approach, but also sometimes you need to actually address the thing that’s causing the distress instead of just suppress it and pretending everything is fine.

I’m probably being hyper-critical, because I’ve been paying more attention to these books after the Mr Tickle debacle, and I’m finding that they really are ideologically woefully out of date. I know they’re a major staple of the kiddielit canon, but I think perhaps if you’re reading them to your children, you may want to make sure you accompany them with some conversation.

C loves them, and this one was definitely a better story – it didn’t leave me with the same sense of ick that the last one did. But I am not sold. Not entirely.

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