Are you a Roundy or a Squary?

18 January 2015
Ben Pentreath

….Phew… well that was the most commented-upon-blog-ever-by-a-very-long-way.  THANK YOU.  Amazing. I guess we’re all pretty amazed!

A few months ago I mentioned that I wanted to write a blog about my favourite book by Roger Hargreaves (of the Mr Men fame). And then I never did.  Now seems like just the right time.

The annoying thing is last week I was asked in an interview from some magazine to name the most influential book I’ve ever read. I couldn’t give an answer, because the reality is pretty much every book in my library is influential in some way or another; it depends what the moment is. I don’t like questions like “what’s your favourite building”, or “what’s your favourite flower?” How could you have a single favourite? There are too many choices.  But I realise now, I should have given a simple little title. Easy, job done:

Are you a Roundy or a Squary?


Much less well-known than the Mr Men, I think this little series of books (Roger also wrote Everybody’s a Roundy or a Squary, I’m a Roundy, You’re a Squary, and – rather more worryingly for some of us – If you aren’t a Roundy you’re a Squary) is full of a remarkable amount of truth packed into a little 6″ square.
P1070363 P1070364 P1070365

I love the four covers together.P1070366

Clearly, it goes without saying, as anyone who has ever met him will attest, I’ve married a Roundy. Charlie is the biggest Roundy known to man.  It’s probably why I love him.

Sit back, have a read, and see what you think about yourself.P1070367 P1070368 P1070369 P1070370 P1070371 P1070372 P1070373 P1070374 P1070375 P1070376 P1070377 P1070378

I’m a Squary at that particular moment.P1070379

I still think that Are you a Roundy or a Squary is my favourite. But for the sake of completeness, and for those who have a long commute, I am including the others in this blog too.P1070380 P1070381 P1070382 P1070383 P1070384

(Uh oh).P1070385 P1070386 P1070387 P1070388 P1070389 P1070390 P1070391

You get the feeling Roger Hargreaves was probably the ultimate Roundy too. He couldn’t have been anything else, if you think about it. I adored the Mr Men when I was a child. For about a year or so, until it got crazy, we began selling vintage Mr Men copies in the shop. They had to date from the 70s to have the right feel and smell.P1070392 P1070393 P1070394 P1070395 P1070396 P1070397 P1070398 P1070399 P1070400 P1070401 P1070402 P1070403

Don’t you love EVERYTHING about these books?  I was first put on to Are you a Roundy or a Squary? by my great friend George Saumarez Smith. George had had this book as a child. I only could enjoy it as an adult. P1070404 P1070405 P1070406 P1070407 P1070408 P1070409 P1070410 P1070411 P1070412 P1070413 P1070414 P1070415

The interesting question, if I’m really really honest with myself, is to ask exactly how Roundy I really am.  Charlie is round-and-round Roundy.  Obviously, we’d all like to be Roundies.P1070416

But rather a large part of me is Squary, and perhaps the world needs people who are a bit Squary too.  I don’t know.  I’ve decided that Roundies decide where to go on holiday, and Squaries book the flights.  Squaries have their uses.

Our friend Richard Chapman summed it up best of all I think, when we were talking the other day about Roundies and Squaries. “Perhaps I’m an octagon”, he said.

I wonder what you are?

41 comments on this post

margie mary hallsays:

Blimey,I had no idea we were sitting on a fortune! We’ve got them all!Presumably being pleased that we’re sitting on a fortune makes me a Squarey, whereas being determined never to sell them makes me a Roundy.

Alison Lewissays:

Original, simple, spot on and perfect in every shape and form!


Fun books, but perhaps a little shapist. Try holding down a job, even in a public-sector yoghurt cooperative, if you turn up late every day wearing sandals. Sometimes shoes and timetables are necessary, I’m sorry.


many thanks – pity these are out of print. i have been looking for them for ages


Loved these stories as a kid, who wouldn;t want to be a roundy

I loved reading about Roundy and Squary! A very nice and humouristic way to figure out where you stand in life at the moment and if you are happy with it.

I have just taken a peek online to try and buy my husband the first of these Titles for Valentines Day because it has us both down to a tee. On Amazon it is available for £995.95! Is this your doing Mr Penreath? I’m impressed (if a little peeved)

hahahaha this has made me smile and reminds me of a game my mother and I used to play called ‘horse or currant bun’ … based loosely on a persons facial features ie. long vs round but also slightly due to their character as well … try it, it’s hilarious how everyone is so clearly one or the other…!

Pierre B.says:

My squary side must correct a mistake my roundy side made: does’nt SEEM, of course! Sorry.

Pierre B.says:

Who is’nt both? Ben, for intance, does’nt sems as squary as he pretends according to Instagram.


I have both Squary and Roundy qualities, I work too hard and am too serious too ofteh but I love flowers, am delighted by animals, make baby-talk to my dog and am known to jump into puddles when it strikes me. It is probably rare to find a 100% Squary, at least I hope so! That Charlie is a round Roundy and you are a bit Squary probably makes you a good match because balance is always a good thing!

PP(this one)says:

There’s a horsefly trying to eat my feet and so at this precise moment I’m a scary squary. But at other times a roundy, a triangly, a parallelogramy, a trapezoidy, an ovaly…

I like these in the way I like Robins’ whole oomboolu and kikeriki thing – to describe evanescent states of feeling. Not so much as boxes we cram ourselves into. Which is probs a bit of a solemn-bolemn squary thing to say. See above.

helen tsays:

Look at those colours, too. Recommend my favourite child’s book, The Happy Prince. So lovely….

victoria bsays:

The most beautiful childrens’ book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

I love this post. I also love the mr men books and I still read them to my 11 year old but I’ve never heard of the roundies and squaries so I’ll look out for these.
Someone mentioned the fattipuffs and the thinifers which I certainly do remember. Probably not so pc these days but sod it, it’s massively nostalgic for me.


I now understand what happened to the delightful 10 year old I once was…queen of the Roundies.
I was never able to read this book… so over several decades much to my astonishment I became a Enneagon! Yes I am afraid I became a less common polygon. However all is not lost, with age related myopia from a distance I still seem to be a roundy!
Those who have shared my life, rejoice in this complexity.


At first this seems fun, till you realize the Roundy is too smug about being a Roundy. (E.g. “Roundies wish everybody was a Roundy.”)

I work full-time to support myself, but I’m actually an artist. So, I guess I’m a Squary with a Roundy inside, trying to get out! Or a Roundy in a Squary’s clothing?


That very sweet. Im looking forward to seeing those tulip colours you and Charlie planted at the vicarage..


Hi Ben,
I’m a little bit roundy, a bit squary and a bit . . . outsized !
Don’t worry for your interview.You’ve caught up here. The late Duchess of Devonshire (1920-2014) used to say that she’d never read any book in her life ! Although the last Mitford sister was a writer . . . and an interesting one. And you, Ben, are one of the best bloggers of our planet ! Many thanks for sharing a bit of your roundy side.
Be happy . . . with Charlie !
Chris, usually a silent enjoyer of Ben’s “inspiration”.


Thank you – these books are fabulous!! I’m going to share with Master 10 before bed tonight …. I do wonder if he’ll see his Mum and Dad???


Oh no….100% (well ok not 100%) squary, so unfairy!


I am the same shape as my nails I think – which are (apparently) ‘squoval’. Can’t decide if these books are hugely passively aggressive or whether that’s just my squary bit speaking?!


Hmm I seem to be 50% of both, I really can’t commit to either as an equal number from both absolutely apply. So guess I’m an Octagon. Or a Square with curves maybe.


You’re frightening me on a Monday afternoon! Please show some pictures of dahlias. Quickly now! Spit! Spot!!

At first, I thought I was a Squary, but the more I read, the more the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up. Who would want to be a Squary, put like that? Very negative type-casting is afoot there.

Question: is it possible to be an eldest child and not be a Squary? All that angst raining down from the first-time parents followed by the swarm of chaos surging up from the younger siblings must surely take its toll.


Roundy or Squary? Thinking this hard makes me want to nap. Perhaps this makes me a Blobby.

p.s. I wish you and Charlie much joy.


The real question is, why haven’t these been reprinted, especially considering the great popularity of Mr. Men and Little Misses?

What a conundrum! Roundy or Squary? Why such a binary question? I’m a mixture of the two, I think – as is my boyfriend. But aren’t we all? Perhaps there’s a roundy-squary spectrum? Thankfully the boyfriend and I bring out the roundy in each other; which, when I think about it, is simply wonderful!

I didn’t grow up with these and have to admit ignorance to any of Hargreaves work. I find myself feeling an odd mix of emotion — what am I? Which is probably the ultimate Squary tip-off. Ahhh! And I always assumed my husband was the square, and I was the free spirit. (True story: my mother-in-law’s last name is Squarie.) How is one supposed to lead the considered life and be concretely one or the other? I want to give these to my 4 year old godson, but I think he’s a bit of a Squary-jr. — he always has this marvelous, magisterial air that I find so charming in children and insufferable in adults — I don’t want to give him a complex, but maybe it’ll inspire rounded corners. Thanks, as always — and deepest congratulations. Slipped it in where you weren’t expecting it.

Oh I LOVE this so much, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH of sharing ^^
This made my day! ^^


I am a Round through and through – even my shape….. I love this post – it made me smile all the way through it. I also love that you took the time to photograph every-single-page for us all!

Reading them with a smile thinking, oh that’s why the first marriage didn’t work, I was all Roundy and him 100% Squary. I am now married a wonderful Roundy, but it sometimes brings out the Squary in me!


Mmmmm…..possibly a Ruary or even a Soundy?


I hope to goodness I’m neither … fancy having only squareys or roundeys … perhaps we are all rather like little pieces of a mosaic, which can be lovely on its own, and even lovelier when part of the whole picture, full of all shapes, sizes and colours, and which doesn’t make too much sense until one stands back and takes a look from a little distance. ;)x


I think Squaries get an unfair press! 🙂

Also recommended is Fattypuffs and Thinifers by Andre Mourois. A blog for another day…


I thought I was 100% Roundy and my husband 100 % Squary, but then I read that Roundies climb mountains and Squaries watch people climb mountains. He is the climber, I am the watcher, then I guess most of us are Octagonies


As a Squary I find it very uncomfortable
That the last two blogs have related to Love, romance and self evaluation. This is a formal request that next week you return to something Architectural, preferably Classical. With Pictures.


I am a Roundy mind in a necessary Squarey body…

Jenny Msays:

Depends on which hat I’m wearing! I’m a Squary thru the working week and more of a Roundy on the weekends & holiday time.

I think I’m a Squarey with rounded corners…….

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