There has, quite recently, been something of a trend for revisiting classic children’s literature and reinventing it for the contemporary adult market with varying degrees of success. Most notable and by far most popular have been the very funny 'Ladybird Book Of...' parodies, there are modern conundrums for Enid Blyton's famous five which find them 'forgetting Mother's Day' and 'going Gluten Free', there is even a Star Wars themed attempt at recreating the Where's Wally? Books; and so it is with the house of Hargreaves who have, with no little measure of success, merged their famous little square books with the enduring magic of the Whoniverse.
Immediately recognisable and warmly nostalgic, Roger Hargreves' Mr. Men and subsequent Little Miss books have been on bookshelves in 28 different countries since 1971. After the originators death in 1988 the mantle was taken up by his son, Adam, who has developed the franchise and negotiated it's direction ever since right up to this most recent and, by far, most radical direction. Rarely has there been a marriage of two such globally recognisable cultural icons as there is here, and it's a brilliantly bold move, one that will be welcomed by Japanese design company Sanrio (of Hello Kitty fame) who have owned the right's to the books since 2011 and who, with this new collaboration, will have further cemented their relationship with the unassailable BBC Worldwide.
The books themselves are as charming, delightful and enigmatic as the characters they portray, they follow the tried and tested Hargreaves format exactly with their 16 or so unnumbered pages and colourful maker-pen illustrations. There are four books in this first batch of publications and herein lies the enigma; Two of the inclusions are, logically, the very earliest and the most recent Doctors (originally portrayed by William Hartnell and Peter Capaldi respectively) but they are accompanied by another two other, seemingly, arbitrarily selected Doctors, namely, the fourth (Tom Baker) and the eleventh (Matt Smith), perhaps these are the author's favourites or, more likely, they were chosen for their wealth of source material, having had the most stories written for them in the TV series. Whatever the reason for the choice, Adam Hargreaves who exhibits a palpable fondness and empathy for the characters has done them a great justice. The narrative follows our Doctors through a snappily truncated version of their on screen exploits, each accompanied by their most memorable companion and respective nemeses with the exception of Dr. Twelfth, who travels alone trying to capture the naughty Missy (Little Miss Missy?). Some of the many pleasures in these books include tennis playing Daleks and disco-dancing Cybermen, there is also a little nod to Roger Hargreaves' other work with the brief appearance of a particularly 'wriggly' character.
The writing manages to perfectly capture the personalities of each Doctor and elevate them to worthy inclusions in the Mr. Men cannon. Fans of Hargreaves' work will love them and fans of Dr. Who will love them so this should be the beginning of a long and successful new road for these timeless classics.
DR. FIRST, DR. FOURTH, DR. ELEVENTH, DR. TWELFTH / AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: ADAM HARGREAVES / PUBLISHER: BBC WORLDWIDE/PENGGUIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW