I had a small, but perfectly formed, companion on the Summer Reading Challenge Desk at Worthing Library yesterday.
once I am not referring to the Small Fry, arriving at the desk in increasing numbers to tell me about the latest Rainbow Magic book they have read (kill me now!); to claim their certificate and gold medal for completing the challenge to read six books over
the course of the summer holiday; or to whisper the magic password in my ear so that I know their parents have registered them for the challenge. Once I have the password, I can start them off on their journey with a black and red wristband (as in, Dennis
The Menace colours) and a Treasure Hunt sheet.
Occasionally one of the little ones asks for an extra clue to help them find the Treasure Hunt characters. Fortunately
I have a crib sheet secreted in the back of a helpful folder of hints and tips for volunteers so I can advise them to, maybe, check the door of the Toy Library or wherever. Every time they bring their completed Treasure Hunt sheets back to be posted in the
Mischief Makers Box (one lucky person will win a goody bag if their sheet is drawn out at the end of the Challenge) I ask if they found the Hunt easy or difficult. Most say it was easy - those who have completed the Reading Challenge in previous years point
out that many of the hiding places remain unchanged from year to year. Children have such long memories.
My Small Companion, standing proudly next to the
Mischief Makers Box, is, in fact, a toy in the shape of Minnie the Minx, the naughty girl so beloved of readers of the esteemed Beano comic. Someone, I suppose, must have brought her along to the desk and left her here to be enjoyed by All Comers. Including
me. On her back there is a round button which, when pressed, makes Minnie poke out a small, pink tongue. She is quite exquisitely rude.
Being me, I find it impossible
not to demonstrate Minnie’s Tongue Trick to the youngsters who come to the desk. She turns out to be an excellent ice-breaker where some of the shyer children are concerned, helping them to lose their inhibitions at being faced with being quizzed by
such as I. I do notice, however, that while it makes all the young’uns laugh, not all the parents seem to appreciate it quite so much. It is, I suspect, a sign of the times. Not only is Minnie rather rude but she also has friends called Fatty Fudge
and Soppy Susan - which wouldn’t be allowed these days, now would it? But then Our Minnie harks back to the time when Billy Bunter was an unlikely hero, when Desperate Dan tucked into cow pie, when the Bash Street Kids took as their sole reason for being
to make their teachers’ lives a misery. It was, indeed, say the rosy-spectacled among us, a more innocent, gentler age...
The library staff are carrying
out a consultation exercise to gather ideas about ways to create a community hub within the town centre building. An Ideas Zone has been set up, just behind the desk where I sit. Staff armed with leaflets try to catch people on their way in and out of the
building to entice them into the zone. I think maybe they need a few added attractions. Like Minnie, for example.
It seems possible that my Minnie was one of a
number of characters from the Beano produced as free toys in McDonalds Happy Meals way back in the year 2000. That makes her 18 years old and still in perfect condition, still poking her tongue out at anyone and everyone who pushes her button. I check her
out on eBay when I get home, just in the interests of research, you understand, because I wonder if she might be valuable but you could probably buy a set of three - Minnie, Dennis himself and Wilfred for around a tenner.
Don’t worry, she isn’t for sale. She is far, far too valuable for that.
face it, anything that makes a little one giggle has to be priceless.