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more attention to these books after the Mr Tickle debacle, and I’m finding that they really are ideologically woefully out of date.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.

Mr. Tickle – Roger Hargreaves

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 0 point
Good story: 1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

Mr Tickle is the first in the incredibly prolific and popular Mr Men (and Little Miss) books. These are a big favourite in this house – C absolutely loves them. Me? I am less convinced. I have a lot to say about the series as a whole, but in the interest of fairness, I am going to try to treat each book individually.

So, Mr Tickle. Firstly, it doesn’t pass Bechdel, but that’s no surprise. Also, there’s nothing that could be viewed as showing the wide variety of human experience.

And then there’s the consent stuff.

Look, Mr Tickle is portrayed as not being a paragon of virtue. He’s “naughty”, even within the framework of the story. But it goes further than that, because seriously, this guy is a fucking creep.

He basically spends his spare time wandering around tickling total strangers with his freakishly and disturbing long arms. He reminds me of that gross guy in that episode of Angel, who can remove his hands and send them into the house and bedroom of the woman he’s stalking. It’s heeby-jeeby territory. He wanders around tickling strangers and causing havoc and then he goes home and sits in his armchair and laughs to himself about it.

It’s ikky. And the thing is, it’s not just my adult viewpoint that’s making it ikky. C and I have had so many conversations about how tickling can be fun but when the person asks you to stop you should stop. I realise there’s a time lapse thing here and the book was written in a different time, but I found myself wanting to stop and talk to C about it a lot.

I dunno. I guess if you use the book as a springboard for that conversation, then it would have some merit, but I found it quite unsettling. I know from reading many of the others, that they’re not all quite as bad, but I’d say give Mr Tickle a skip. Read Mr Silly. That’s a great one.