Beloved children’s book author Richard Scarry was born on this day, June 5, 1919. Among the many books he published during his 45-year career were “Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever,” “Good Night, Little Bear,” and the “Busy, Busy World,” books, which became an animated series on Nick Jr. in the 1990s.
Scarry went to art school in Boston before being drafted to fight in World War II. After the war, he began working as a freelance author and illustrator and published a few moderately successful books for children.
In 1963, “Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever” became a breakthrough bestseller. The oversized book for preschoolers was packed to bursting with images of animals doing human-like things; each page was so crammed with illustrations that he fit 1,400 separate objects between its covers.
Mice, cats, worms, rabbits and pigs were frequently featured in his illustrations. They drove firetrucks, delivered mail, baked bread, fixed houses, carried umbrellas, read bedtime stories and did just about anything else a human might do. His books helped young children learn the names of objects and activities; because they were so rich with detail, kids could discover new things each time they picked up one of his books.
“I’m not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten,” Richard Scarry told an interviewer. “I am very happy when people write that they have worn out my books, or that they are held together by Scotch tape. I consider that the ultimate compliment.”
Richard Scarry worked with his wife, Patricia, on some of his books. Since he died in 1994, his son Richard Scarry Jr. has also published children’s books, sometimes under his nickname Huck. That’s Huck as in Huck Finn, but also as in Huckle Cat, one of Scarry’s most recognizable characters.
Happy birthday, Richard Scarry!