Ah, I love the Mr. Men series. Mr. Tickle, Mr. Messy, Mr. Nosey. So iconic!
But this did make me laugh – well, why not a Yorkshire Mr. Men series, right?!
When I was growing up, my mother used to take me to the library twice a week. As I result, I’ve got a vivid arsenal of memories of pictures from books – many of which we never owned, and that I have no record of.
For most of them, my memory of the title of the book is completely gone, sadly inaccessible, but if I catch of glimpse of a particular page (now particularly when reading to my own kids and also going to the library) – it all comes rushing back.
“The Elephant and the Bad Baby” by Elfrida Vipont and illustrated by Raymond Briggs (of “The Snowman” fame) is one of those books for me.
It’s a very English story with references to crisps, biscuits, buns and barrow boys, as the Elephant takes the Bad Baby on a tasty trip through a variety of shops. My favorite pages out of the book (and every page, to be honest, is good enough to eat!) is the last scene of his mother making pancakes (in this case, hers are thin, French-style crepes), with lemon and sugar as the perfect accompaniments.
I’m always a little fascinated when American publishers take a perfectly good UK book and dumb it down for American audiences.
For example, the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US because the dumbledores at Scholastic didn’t think American kids would want to read a book with the word “philosopher” in the title. Sad.
Ditto with Thomas the Tank Engine which had to be renamed Thomas the Train in the US because heaven forbid, we make anything slightly complicated for American children. What did they think? We would confuse Thomas who looks, sounds and acts like a train with a car engine?
But some of these American publishers’ changes are just pure political correctness at their best. My favorite remains … this guy.
If you’re from the UK, you know him best as the Fat Controller. Because he is the train director, and, well, he’s fat. Simple. How much of a backstory do we need to give these characters? It’s not actually until you’re much deeper into the series that it’s revealed that his name is Sir Topham Hatt.
Now if you’re from the US, you know him only as Sir Topham Hatt. Not as The Fat Controller. (I imagine at some point they probably debated calling him The Horizontally Gifted Controller or the Metabolically Challenged Controller before settling on Topham Hatt.) The same is true for the character of The Thin Controller. He is only named Mr. Percival in the US. (Not the Horizontally Challenged Controller.)
And that’s fine. They can call them whatever they want. But in my house? We’re reading the British versions.