The kids and I were delighted to be invited for the unveiling of the new and updated version of the Miffy children’s books. Miffy has now been a published series for over 50 years and has been translated into over 50 languages.
This will be the first time the boys can read the Miffy books for themselves, and their first copy in English (having it previously read to them in Dutch). In Dutch, Miffy is “nijntje.”
Dick Bruna, the author and illustratror, while best known for the Miffy books (32 books) actually wrote an additional 124 picture books for children many of which included rhyming verse, making it easier for kids to read and remember. I love how the Miffy books got started – like many a good idea (from a desperate parent) it started out as entertainment on a rainy seaside holiday in 1955. Dick created the sketches of the Miffy bunny character for his son and then made up stories at bedtime to go along with the sketches.
In the 1980′s the stories were translated into English from Dutch by Patricia Crampton and launched in the UK, as generations have grown up with the stories they’ve stayed the same. Is it really necessary to update the language of children’s books you ask? When I first thought about it – I thought about what would need to be updated in terms of children’s books. Would they be adding in the word of the year, “selfie”, scattering in a few references to technology and #hashtags?
I was pleasantly surprised when I read the before/after to see that the updates made it easier to read. Here’s a few examples:
Having read the before/after it makes me think through which other children’s classics could do with an update. Which would you have modernised from your kid’s bookshelf?
The new verse was created by children’s author and poet, Tony Mitton. Dick Brunna’s beloved stories and timeless illustrations have remained the same.
“Throughout my career as a writer of poetry and verse for children, I’ve sought to combine the language of natural speech with precise rhymes, aural texture, good scansion and metre. So to tackle such internationally known works as the Miffy books – with a brief of staying as faithful as possible to the Dutch originals – struck me as a challenge well worth taking up. I was flattered and honoured to be asked.
I find great satisfaction in problem solving and plying my verse writing as a craft – in the same way a carpenter might approach making joinery for a bespoke space. I love working intricately with the sounds, rhythms, rhymes, textures and meanings of language in verse. Working on the Miffy books gave me the opportunity to do this. There were strictures, of course. The books have a look, a format and a feel already known and loved. And Dick himself was very exact in his own original writing, so I was not allowed free rein to do as I pleased. One is using one’s skills within set parameters. In that sense it is like working as a scriptwriter rather than as a solo poet. My own children loved Dick Bruna’s books; I hope my new texts help today’s young children to enjoy them too.”
— Tony Mitton, award-winning poet who has updated the texts in the Miffy storybooks:
The book launch event was held, (appropriately I’d say) at the Dutch Centre in London. The kids enjoyed tables full of Miffy inspired crafting – and colour your own Miffy bunny ears.
After crafting, they joined in to an interactive storytime, then a reading by Tony Mitton
The kids then had photos with and did some dancing with a big plushie Miffy.
The modernised Miffy books will be rolled out throghout 2014 by the publisher, Simon & Schuster, with the first 3 being available from 27th February 2014.
The new Miffy books are available from all good bookshops across the UK and online. In addition to the traditional books they are also launching a series of activity and sticker books.
Publishing schedule for the new Miffy hardback storybooks (£4.99 each):
- 27th February: miffy, miffy at the zoo, miffy at the gallery
- 22nd May: miffy’s birthday, miffy’s garden, miffy and the new baby
- 11th September: miffy at school, miffy goes flying, miffy’s bicycle
- 9th October: miffy in the snow, miffy the fairy, miffy’s dream
New Miffy Activty Books, published 27 February:
- Miffy’s Play Date paperback sticker storybook (£6.99),
- Miffy Dress-up colouring and sticker book (£4.99)
- Miffy’s Day sticker, activity book (£4.99).
*Disclosure: we were invited to attend this free book launch event, Miffy books were provided to my children for their review, but the opinions, experiences and reviews are our own.