Browsing the children’s sections in a second-hand bookshop in St Andrew’s the other day I saw a title which triggered memories. It was Carol Kendall’s The Minnipins, a book which I haven’t thought about in years but one which immediately reminded me that I spent years when my children were smaller looking for a copy, though without success.
When I pulled it out I had a clear picture in my mind of the cover of my edition, some several decades ago. This was the same (the edition dated from 1972). I turned it over and read the back. ‘Five rebels are exiled to the mountains from their sober, respectable Minnipin village, and find that the deadly Mushroom tribe is coming to attack their countrymen.’
Of course I bought it, tattered though it was; and of course I read it at the first opportunity. Time slipped away. The more I read the more I remembered; every time I turned a page I knew what was coming and yet I was still amused by the tiny twists which I’d either forgotten or never spotted. And it isn’t even (as far as I’m aware) a classic.
The book, though short, is obviously derivative and highly reminiscent of Tolkien with its little people living in a Shire-like land unaware of a gathering threat outside. (One of them, incidentally, is called Muggles so perhaps the derivation leads forwards as well as back.) And of course our band of misfit Minnipins save the day as the invaders attacks through old mines - aided by their magic swords.
Reading it as an adult I spotted much about the lessons of the book which I must have taken in subliminally as a child. The message is about being true to yourself, about learning to accept others for what they are, about not being self-important or being bound by your own history. It isn’t a classic but it really ought to be. I have plenty of musing to do on precisely why, on all the elements which made this particular book appeal to me.
When I Googled it I discovered that The Minnipins has a sequel. This leaves me with a dilemma. Read it - or leave the original in my mind as the almost-perfect stand-alone children’s book I thought it was? What would you do?