Mr Benn

I said before that there were only two of David McKee’s Mr Benn stories published as books. Well, we were at the Tate modern and we saw that this is not true: there were five: Mr Benn – Red KnightBig Game Benn123456789 BennBig Top Benn and Mr Benn – Gladiator.  The Tate is republishing them. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the creation of Mr Benn.

Though the video versions are fantastic, I love the alternate full colour and black and white illustrations of the books. There’s such detail in the black and white pages.

Big-Top Benn was written and illustrated by David McKee 30 years ago and is now made available again in its original format from Tate Publishing.© David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

In Big Top Benn, Mr Benn makes his way to the special costume shop as usual.

McKee was born in Devon in 1935. While studying fine arts at Plymouth Art College he started selling his drawings to the national press, submitting cartoons to Punch and TES. © David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

He sees a clown costume and puts it on.

“Mr Benn has been a part of my life since 1965,” says David McKee, “but it feels as though he’s always been there. Over the years public reaction to him has been very rewarding. The fact that Tate has published him in his original form is really the icing on the cake.”© David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

And off he goes in his clown car.

The hilly landscapes in Big-Top Benn resemble Widemoor in Dartmoor where David McKee grew up as a child.© David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

He meets a travelling circus. They come to a canyon that they can’t cross. Each of the circus acts wants to get across in their own way.

After publishing his first children’s book at the age of 29 David McKee went on to create several well-known characters including Mr Benn, King Rollo, Not Now Bernard and Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. © David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

Mr Benn suggests they work together. They do, they cross the gulf and the circus comes to town.

The first Mr Benn TV episode was aired by the BBC on 25th February 1971 and has since been repeated over 60 times, enjoying cult status with succeeding generations.© David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

David McKee has over 100 children’s books to his name and continues to write and draw at the age of 75.© David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

2010 is the 30th anniversary since Big-Top Benn was first published. Tate Publishing’s re-release of the book illustrates David McKee’s original painted and pen and ink drawings.© David McKee. From ‘Big-Top Benn’, Tate Publishing

Here it is on YouTube:

(The DVD is still amazingly cheap.)

The Mr Benn phenomenon seems to be growing, snowballing. Theatre group Tall Stories are performing a theatrical Mr Benn:

Mr Benn Red Knight was the first book.

Here it is on YouTube:

These two books are available:

– but I can’t find Big Game Benn. 

Have a look at this short audio slideshow of David McKee talking about Mr Benn and his other creations.

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