FOCUS ON: Fifty years of Richard Scarry’s Busytown
Any adult of a “certain age” will have (hopefully) had some experience of Richard Scarry’s books. Scarry was a big part of my childhood even though I didn’t actually realise who he was and that he had written and illustrated some of my favourite books as a child until I rediscovered them with my son.
The illustrations were anchored in my mind so vividly, that as soon as I came across it again, over twenty years later it felt like only yesterday that I had last seen them. That Richard Scarry book was My Funniest Storybook Ever, which was actually published as separate story books in France. This double-spread is the one that I most vividly remember:
This spread is from a story called Uncle Willie and the Pirates, which in French was Pirates et compagnie, which I listed as My Childhood Top Ten here.
Funniest Storybook Ever is part of Richard Scarry’s Busytown series of books, a vast collection of books centered around a fictional town inhabited by an array of anthropomorphic animals. Scarry’s loveable animal characters and incredibly detailed spreads of every day life have inspired many illustrators. even to this day. It is exactly the kind of book that children go back to, again and again. We always had a copy of a Richard Scarry book in the car for long journeys when my son was little.
The first book in the series to be published was Best Word Book Ever, which was published 50 years ago this year. To celebrate 50 years of Busytown, HarperCollins Children’s Books have (re)published three wonderful Richard Scarry books:
Best Word Book Ever
This is a new updated edition of Best Word Book Ever, which is a fantastic word book for pre-schoolers, depicting every day life in Busytown with an astonishing amount of detail and plenty of funny little bits along the way. Each double spread is themed, with many of the scenes already familiar to pre-schoolers, and is packed full of words. This is the original word books, the word book par excellence. And if you have not seen it yet, go and read Playing by the Book ‘s insightful post about the changes between the 1963 and 2013 editions, which is absolutely fascinating.
Best Lowly Worm Book Ever
This is the first new Richard Scarry book for over 20 years (Scarry died in 1994), which was made possible after his son Huck unearthed some previously undiscovered sketches, and was completed it so it could become a book. Readers get to follow Lowly Worm throughout his day, on the farm, at the doctor’s etc as well as a great “Where’s Lowly” section. This is a lovely hardback which will make a great gift book.
Biggest Word Book Ever
This really is the biggest book ever, as tall as a toddler! Packed full of detail and Busytown tales, this is a book to lay on the floor and just pore over for hours. There is just so much to see! With sturdy board pages, Biggest Word Book Ever will be a hit both in the home and in preschools and primary schools. It is also a fantastic object which will go a long way at promoting that books provide lots of opportunities for fun, rather than “just” reading. So if children want to use it as a little hut, I think that’s a good thing.
So here you have it, three books offering plenty of lovely material to create a brand new generation of Richard Scarry fans, and for this we can only say HURRAH!
Source: review copies from publisher