How do you take a beloved character and her endeavours and update them for a modern audience? In the case of poet and author Tony Mitton’s work on Miffy, it seems the answer is with great respect, grace and subtlety.
Of all the children’s books I’ve encountered, the Miffy books by Dutch artist Dick Bruna have embodied the genre with the greatest restraint – by which I mean that he invented something good, and ran with it.
The Miffy original artwork is key here, with simple shapes, bold colours and sharp outlines – not unlike the later work of Matisse who so inspired Bruna – just take a peek at the legendary ‘Miffy At The Gallery’ to see what I mean!
The text is far from secondary, but works in seamless harmony with the images, with clean, straightforward ideas and words telling uncomplicated yet pleasing stories about adventures any child can relate to.
Tony’s work on the new releases from Miffy’s UK publisher Simon and Schuster has ensured a tightness of phrase and clarity of language that modern children will enjoy – with plenty of questions included to ensure that reading these books is an interactive experience.
Two of the releases in particular hold interactivity at their centre – Miffy Draws: a wipe clean book (complete with a special Miffy pen!), and Miffy Outdoors, a sticker scene book with 50 individual stickers using Dick Bruna’s artwork. Both encourage children to get involved creating the scenes Miffy explores, and think about their own favourite pastimes.
I think they’re great fun, and work beautifully with Tony’s prose – “Miffy is sailing on the sea! What can you add to the picture? Maybe you could draw a friendly whale or a quacking duck.”
It’s the perfect balance of informative and open to prompt kids to use their imaginations and thoroughly engage. I have a sense these will become treasured family heirlooms, packed with children’s early artwork – and the sweet stickers, which include a gorgeous one of Miffy in a bright yellow tent, are bound to be collectors’ items in years to come. But only if no one peels a single sticker, and where’s the fun in that?
They books are wonderful gifts for children, artists, or anyone with an enduring fondness for the little white rabbit with an inquisitive nature.