Monday, May 9, 2011

Anniversary - The birthday of Roger Hargreaves, creator of the Mr. Men books

On this day in 1935 Charles Roger Hargreaves was born. Hargreaves  was an English author and illustrator of children's books, notably the Mr. Men and Little Miss series, intended for very young readers. The simple and humorous stories, with brightly-colored, boldly drawn illustrations, have been part of popular culture for over 25 years, with sales of over 85 million copies worldwide in 20 languages.

Hargreaves was born in a private hospital at 201 Bath RoadCleckheatonWest Yorkshire to Alfred Reginald and Ethel Mary Hargreaves. He grew up in High Lees at 703 Halifax Road, Cleckheaton, outside of which there now is a commemorative plaque.

Hargreaves spent a year working in his father's laundry and dry-cleaning business before starting out in advertising. His original ambition was to be a cartoonist, and in 1971, while working as the creative director at a London firm, he wrote the first Mr. Men book, Mr. Tickle. Initially he had difficulty finding a publisher, but once he did the books became an instant success, selling over one million copies within three years. In 1975 it spawned a BBC animated television series called the Mr. Men Show, Mr. Tickle being voiced by Arthur Lowe.

By 1976, Hargreaves had quit his day job. In 1981 the Little Miss series of books was launched, and in 1983 it also was made into a television series, narrated by John Alderton. He voiced the Men and Pauline Collins voiced the Misses. Although Hargreaves wrote many other children's stories—including the Timbuctoo series of 25 books, John Mouse and the Roundy and Squarey books—he is best known for his 46 Mr. Men and 33 Little Miss books.

Between 1979 and 1982 Hargreaves lived with his family in Guernsey. Then they settled at Sussex House Farm near CowdenKent. Hargreaves died in 1988 at the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Royal Tunbridge Wells following a stroke. After his death, his son Adam continued writing and drawing the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters with new stories. However, in April 2004 Hargreaves's wife Christine sold the rights to the Mr. Men characters to the UK entertainment group Chorion, for £28 million.

Hargreaves and his wife had four children: Adam, Giles and twins Sophie and Amelia. The first of the Mr. Men characters is reported to have been created when Adam, at age 6, asked his father what a tickle looked like. Hargreaves drew a figure with a round orange body and long rubbery arms, which became Mr. Tickle.

In honor of Hargreaves' wonderful books, Google has released "tons of doodles" featuring the now famous Mr. Men and Little Miss characters.To find out more about the books, you can visit the Mr. Men and Little Miss website.

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