|Walk of Fame, Rotterdam. Photo by Ziko van Dijk|
I’ve had a soft spot for the little white rabbit, created by Dick Bruna over 50 years ago now, since Nijntje became a staple feature of my Dutch lessons at university. Her Dutch name is a shortening of konijntje, meaning “little rabbit”. Although each language originally had it’s own name for her, it was her first English translator, Olive Jones, who came up with the name Miffy – easily pronouncable around the world – by which she is now known in all languages but Dutch. Later books are translated by Patricia Crampton.
The books are as simple as the illustrations – square format for little hands, bright primary colours, fours lines of rhyming text on each pages – and Miffy has become an international style icon. There’s an incredible amount of merchandising out there and she even has her own museum.
Yet despite their simplicity, Bruna manages to convey an incredible amount of emotion in a face made up of two dots and a cross. The early books might be rather dated and un-PC in their gender roles, but the books cover pretty much every aspect of toddlerdom while Miffy at the Gallery (Egmont, 2003) is a lovely introduction to modern art.