English Mighty Midgets

Historical Information

"So, what of these “many other series in similar miniature format” as cited by Beatrice Warde above? Aside from Chatto and Windus’s popular Midget Books, many smaller publishing companies joined the children’s little book market in 1942. The 60 successful Mighty Midgets: Thrilling Tales published by W. Barton Ltd., London, measure 37/8 inches by 21/2 inches, are longer than Chatto’s series with thirty-six pages, but contain between two and six sub-magazine or Bumper Annual- quality line illustrations and title-page vignettes. Throughout the Barton series each illustration is positioned opposite or following the appropriate page of text, with a phrase or line quotation from that page under each image. Illustration techniques employed through the sixty titles range from competent cross-hatched compositions undermined by the artist’s anatomically challenged figure drawing (The Avenger Again, Revenge in the Fiord, or Robin Hood Accepts a Challenge), to thick, bold woodcut-style designs (Robin Hood to the Rescue), or light, nimble, pen and brush pictures in shaped blocks (The Cowboy Millionaire)."

"Judging from the general level and length of each text, the Mighty Midgets were probably intended for young children aged between four and ten years old, and unlike Chatto’s Midget Books, contain some war themes with high adrenaline-rush, derring-do titles, such as: The Red Flash (A Great Motor Track Racing Story), Formula XB1 (A Hold-Up on the Travelling Post-Office), Wreckers Over Munich, U Boats Defied (A Story of Heroism in the North Atlantic), The Human Torpedo and Spitfire Sabotage. The pictorial card covers, for example, The Clarions and Runaway Robot, are finely printed 4-colour lithographic designs accompanied by attractive and unusual typesetting; on the back covers there are colourful 4-tone adverts for contemporary products like Paxo Sage and Onion Stuffing, Saxa Salt, Bisto Gravy, Kiwi Boot Polish “The Brightest Black Out!” and Moorlands Brand Indigestion Tablets. (Such advertisements were probably just useful subsidising page-fillers rather than the product of any more involved coupon/collect scheme organised jointly by the publisher W. Barton Ltd. and the companies advertised.) Furthermore, half the Mighty Midgets are titled Tales for Young People, a series of wellknown stories and fairy tales abridged into snack-sized portions for younger readers. Yet, unlike Barton’s principal rival series, Tuck’s supreme Better Little Books, the Mighty Midgets are littered with numerous spelling and grammatical errors and the stories are generally uninspired, although the war-themed titles are obviously intended to excite young imaginations and appeal to their patriotic instincts."

Source: Eve, M. (2000). From Better Little Books to Baby Puffins: The phenomenon of small English illustrated children's books for use in and out of air-raid shelters - 1939-1948. Children's Literature in Education, 31:2, 125-143. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/content/vq7tr41650725446/fulltext.pdf.

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