Richard Scarry

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Richard Scarry
Born (1919-06-05)June 5, 1919
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died April 30, 1994(1994-04-30) (aged 74)
Gstaad, Switzerland
Occupation Author and illustrator
Genre Children's books
Notable works Best Word Book Ever

Richard McClure Scarry (June 5, 1919 – April 30, 1994) was a popular American children's author and illustrator who published over 300 books with total sales of over 100 million worldwide.[1]

Early life[edit]

Scarry was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where his parents ran a shop. The Scarry family enjoyed a comfortable life even during the time of the Great Depression. Following high school graduation, Scarry enrolled in a business college but soon dropped out, finding it not to his liking. He then studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he remained until being drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, Scarry worked for the art departments of various magazines before making a career breakthrough in 1949 with Little Golden Books.

In Irish, his surname is pronounced /ˈsˠkaːɾˠə/, originating on the west coast of Ireland, but English-speakers often pronounce it "scary," and this is the pronunciation used in popular video and audio renditions of his books and stories.

Overview of his work[edit]

Scarry's most famous series of books was about Busytown. Scarry's characters were almost always anthropomorphic animals. His books were popular with children throughout the world. Over 100 million copies of his books were sold, and they have been translated into dozens of languages.[1]

While his books are largely populated by common animal species such as cats, rabbits, rats, domestic pigs, and mice, he proved to be quite adept at giving human characteristics to a seemingly endless number of creatures. Many of his later illustrations feature characters in traditional Swiss clothing and show architecturally correct drawings of half-timber houses. Examinations of drawings featuring mechanical devices, such as the rigging on a sailboat or a fighter jet, also show that they were drawn with accuracy.

Scarry was closely associated with mass-market children's publisher Ole Risom, "the author and illustrator whose [collaborative] books have sold more than 100 million copies around the world. They worked together on dozens of books, including I Am a Bunny, which Risom wrote and Scarry illustrated. First published in 1963, it is still in print."[2] Moreover, Risom and Walter Retan later cowrote the illustrated biography, The Busy, Busy World of Richard Scarry.

In the 1980s and 1990s, many of Scarry's Best Ever series of books were converted into popular animated videos, which are available on DVD and VHS and also aired at times during TLC's Ready Set Learn block between scheduled programs from 1995 to 2003 as some of the network's Short Stuff breaks. Some of these animated films include Richard Scarry's Best Silly Stories and Songs Videos Ever and The Busiest Firefighters Ever. The Busytown books were also adapted into an animated series, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, which was produced by CINAR Animation and Paramount Television and ran on Showtime from 1993 to 1997 and later reran in the late 1990s on Nickelodeon and Noggin. A further animated series, Busytown Mysteries, was commissioned by CBC Television from the Cookie Jar Group (the successor to CINAR) in 2007, and airs on the Kids' CBC Block morning program. Busytown was also featured at the Carnegie Science Center from June 13 through September 8, 2002 in an interactive exhibit entitled "Richard Scarry's Busytown."[3]

From 1976 to about 1978, Playskool produced a series of toy sets titled Richard Scarry's Puzzletown featuring plastic figures of Scarry characters and vehicles as well as cardboard scenery that the child could set up in a grid of grooves in a plastic base.[4][5]

Changes made to reflect social values[edit]

A snapshot of Scarry's illustration style.

Books by Richard Scarry changed over the course of their several editions, often to make them conform to changing social values.

His Best Word Book Ever which first appeared in 1963, was issued in 1980 as a "new revised edition" which altered images and text to remove material which could be perceived as offensive due to gender, racial, or religious misconceptions. Characters in "cowboy" or "Indian" costumes were either removed or given nondescript clothing. Moral and religious elements were altered or removed (for instance, a menorah was added into a Christmas scene, and the words "he comes promptly when called to his breakfast" were changed to "he goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast"). Characters engaged in activities reflecting traditional gender roles were altered so as to make the scenes more gender-neutral (e.g. a male character was added in to a kitchen scene, a cowboy was replaced with a female gardener and a female scientist, the phrase "pretty stewardess" was changed to "flight attendant", and male characters engaged in traditionally masculine activities such as driving a steamroller were altered into female characters by the addition of hair ribbons or pink flowers, etc.). In some cases these changes necessitated removing whole sections altogether, including the "Out West" section, the "buildings" section (which had depicted a church, a cathedral, and a French Foreign Legion fortress), and sections on painting and music making.[6][7]

Personal life and family[edit]

Scarry's wife, Patricia Murphy, was a writer of children's textbooks who met Richard during collaboration when he was a textbook illustrator. She is credited with writing many of the stories in his subsequent children's books, such as Good Night, Little Bear, The Bunny Book, and The Fishing Cat. In 1972 the Scarrys bought a chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland. Here he founded his studio where he spent most of the day (from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) writing and illustrating his books. His studio contained a single desk, lamp and chair. His wife was told not to bother him except for his hour break for lunch. Scarry died of a heart attack in Gstaad on April 30, 1994.[1] His papers and drawings are in the collection of the University of Connecticut archives. His son, Richard Scarry, Jr., is also an illustrator, sometimes working under the nickname Huck Scarry, sometimes working in his father's style as Richard Scarry. Huck is the nickname of Huckle Cat, one of the most commonly recurring Busytown characters. Scarry Jr. lives in Vienna, Austria.


Scarry began his career in 1949 as an illustrator of books by other people, specifically Kathryn & Byron Jackson's Mouse's House. He continued as only or primarily an illustrator through 1955, then began turning out original books.

His titles, in order of publication, are:[8]

Golden Books

  • First Book Ever, 1950
  • Here Comes the Parade, 1951
  • Rabbit and His Friends, 1954
  • Nursery Tales, 1958
  • Cars and Trucks, 1959
  • Firemen and Fire Engine Stamps, 1959
  • Naughty Bunny, 1959
  • Tinker and Tanker (ISBN 0-385-06010-6), 1960
  • Just For Fun (ISBN 0-307-02116-5), 1960
  • Tinker and Tanker Out West, 1961
  • Tinker and Tanker and Their Space Ship, 1961
  • Tinker and Tanker and the Pirates, 1961
  • The Hickory Dickory Clock Book, 1961
  • Manners, 1962
  • What Animals Do, 1963
  • A Tinker and Tanker Coloring Book, 1963
  • I am a Bunny, 1963, (ISBN 0-307-12125-9)
  • The Rooster Struts, 1963
  • Best Word Book Ever (ISBN 0-307-15510-2), first published 1963, reprinted 1970, "new revised edition" 1980
  • Tinker and Tanker, Knights of the Round Table, 1963
  • Tinker and Tanker in Africa, 1963
  • Polite Elephant, 1964
  • Is This the House of Mistress Mouse? (ISBN 0-307-12029-5), 1964
  • Feed the Hippo His ABC's, 1964
  • Animal Mother Goose, 1964
  • Best Nursery Rhymes Ever, 1964
  • Busy, Busy World, 1965
  • Teeny Tiny Tales, 1965
  • The Santa Claus Book, 1965
  • The Bunny Book, 1965
  • Planes, 1967
  • Trains, 1967
  • Boats (ISBN 0-30-711537-2), 1967
  • Cars, 1967
  • Egg in the Hole Book, 1967
  • Best Story Book Ever (ISBN 0-307-16548-5), 1967
  • What Do People Do All Day? (ISBN 0-394-81823-7), 1968
  • The Early Bird (ISBN 0-394-81138-0), 1968
  • What Animals Do, 1968
  • Storybook Dictionary: A Giant Golden Book, 1968, reprinted 1987
  • The Great Pie Robbery, 1969
  • The Supermarket Mystery, 1969
    (The above two were combined in the omnibus Great Big Mystery Book (ISBN 0-00-138143-1), also 1969.)
  • Great Big Schoolhouse (ISBN 0-00-138150-4), 1969
  • Great Big Air Book (ISBN 0-394-92167-4), 1971
  • Best Stories Ever, 1971
  • ABC Word Book (ISBN 978-0-394-82339-3 ISBN 978-1-4027-7221-4), 1971
  • Look and Learn Library, 1971 (4 Vols.)
  • Hop Aboard! Here We Go! (ISBN 0-307-13756-2, ISBN 978-0-307-13756-2), 1972
  • Funniest Storybook Ever (ISBN 0-00-138145-8), 1972
  • Nicky Goes to the Doctor, 1972
  • Best Counting Book Ever, 1973
  • Silly Stories, 1973
  • Babykins and His Family, 1973

Random House

  • Find Your ABC's, 1973
  • Please and Thank You Book (ISBN 0-394-82681-7), 1973
  • Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (ISBN 0-307-15785-7), 1974
  • Best Rainy Day Book Ever, 1974
  • European Word Book, 1974

Golden Books

  • Animal Nursery Tales (ISBN 978-0-307-66810-3), 1975
  • Great Steamboat Mystery, 1975
  • Best Counting Book Ever, 1975

Random House

  • Busiest People Ever (ISBN 0-00-711151-7), 1976
  • Favorite Storybook, 1976
  • Busy Town, Busy People, 1976
  • Storytime, 1976
  • Look-Look Books, 1976 (10 Vols.)
  • Early Words, 1976
  • Color Book, 1976
  • Laugh and Learn Library, 1976 (4 Vols.)
  • Picture Dictionary, 1976
  • Teeny Tiny ABC, 1976
  • Learn to Count, 1976
  • Lowly Worm Story Book, 1977
  • Busy, Busy Word Book, 1977
  • Best Make-It Book Ever, 1977
  • Busy-Busy Counting Book, 1977
  • Postman Pig and His Busy Neighbors, 1978
  • Toy Book, 1978
  • Bedtime Stories, 1978
  • Stories to Color, 1978
  • Little Word Book, 1978
  • Punch-Out Toy Book, 1978
  • Things to Learn, 1978
  • Little ABC, 1978
  • Best First Book Ever, 1979
  • Tinker and Tanker and Tales of Pirates and Knights, 1979
  • To Market, To Market, 1979
  • Holiday Book, 1979
  • Work and Play Book, 1979
  • Mix and Match Storybook, 1979
  • Best First Book Ever, 1979
  • Huckle's Book, 1979
  • Busytown Pop-Up Book, 1979
  • Can You Count?, 1979
  • Lowly Worm Things on Wheels, 1979
  • Peasant Pig and the Terrible Dragon (ISBN 0-394-84567-6), 1980
  • Christmas Mice, 1981
  • Best Christmas Book Ever (ISBN 0394949366, ISBN 978-0-394-94936-9), 1981
  • Busy Houses, 1981
  • Four Busy Word Books, 1982
  • Busytown Shape Book, 1982
  • Sticker Books, 1982 (3 Vols.)
  • Lowly Worm Cars and Trucks Book, 1983
  • Lowly Worm Bath Book, 1984
  • The Best Mistake Ever! and Other Stories: A Sequel to The Early Bird/The Best Mistake Ever! and Other Stories, 1984 (Early Moments)
  • Best Bumper Book Ever, 1984
  • Pig Will and Pig Won't: A Book of Manners (ISBN 0-679-86653-1), 1984
  • Busy Fun and Learn Book, 1984
  • Biggest Word Book Ever! (ISBN 0-394-87374-2), 1985
  • My First Word Book, 1986
  • Big and Little, 1986
  • Best Workbooks Ever! (FUN With Letters), 1986 (4 Vols.)
  • Best Workbooks Ever! (FUN With Numbers), 1986 (3 Vols.)
  • My First Word Book, 1986
  • Best Music Book Ever, 1987
  • Things That Go, 1987
  • Things to Love, 1987
  • Busy Workers, 1987
  • Lowly Worm's Schoolbag, 1987 (4 Vols.)
  • Getting Ready for School, 1987 (4 Vols.)
  • Going Places on the Water, 1987 (4 Vols.)
  • Learning How Sticker Book, 1988
  • Giant Coloring Book, 1988
  • Busy Busy Sticker Book, 1988
  • Best Times Ever, 1988
  • Activity Book, 1988
  • Best Bedtime Book Ever, 1988
  • Best Read and Learn Book Ever, 1988
  • Biggest First Book Ever, 1988
  • Busy, Busy World (ISBN 0-307-65539-3), 1988
  • Dr. Doctor, 1988
  • Farmer Patrick Pig, 1988
  • Frances Fix-It, 1988
  • Harry and Larry the Fishermen, 1988
  • Play Day, 1988
  • Smokey the Fireman, 1988

Golden Books

  • Sniff the Detective, 1988
  • Splish Splash Sounds, 1988
  • All About Cars, 1989
  • Best Friend Ever, 1989
  • Best Ride Ever, 1989
  • Best Two-Minute Stories Ever!, 1989
  • Mother Goose Scratch and Sniff Book, 1989
  • Best Ever, 1989
  • Tinker and Tanker Storybook, 1989
  • Welcome to Scarrytown, 1989

Random House

  • Best Puzzle Word Book Ever, 1989
  • Just Right Word Book, 1990
  • Counting Book, 1990
  • Be Careful, Mr Frumble, 1990
  • Best Read It Yourself Book Ever, 1990
  • Best Story Book Ever, 1991
  • ABC's, 1991
  • Watch Your Step, Mr. Rabbit!, 1991
  • Best Year Ever, 1991
  • The Cat Family Takes a Trip, 1991
  • The Cat Family's Busy Day, 1991
  • Mr. Frumble's Worst Day Ever, 1991
  • Sergeant Murphy's Busiest Day Ever!, 1992
  • Best Fairytales Ever, 1992
  • Best Little Word Book Ever, 1992
  • Biggest Pop-Up Book Ever!, 1992
  • Bananas Gorilla, 1992
  • Huckle Cat's Busiest Day Ever, 1992
  • Mr. Fix-It: Richard Scarry's Smallest Pop-Up Book Ever!, 1992
  • Mr. Frumble: Richard Scarry's Smallest Pop-Up Book Ever!, 1992
  • Biggest Make-It Book Ever, 1993
  • Colors, 1993
  • Word Book With Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm, 1993
  • First Words, 1993
  • Story Book, 1993
  • Pie Rats Ahoy! (B-Extra 10), 1994 (Early Moments)
  • Busy, Busy Town (ISBN 0-307-16803-4), 1994 (posthumous)
  • Longest Book Ever! (ISBN 0-689-80134-3), 1995 (posthumous)

Many of these titles are preceded by his name ("Richard Scarry's..."), and may be so listed in library and booksellers' databases. Some (including Pie Rats Ahoy! and Best Mistake Ever!) were published under the Beginner Books imprint, and others (The Early Bird, Funniest Storybook Ever, Busiest People Ever, Best Story Book Ever, Animal Nursery Tales, Storybook Dictionary, Biggest Word Book Ever!) as Bright and Early Books, although all are targeted at beginning readers. Scarry also illustrated a 1963 edition of The Fables of La Fontaine, and in 1993 put his own stamp on a series of familiar nursery stories (Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Red Hen, The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs).

Stories made to video[edit]

Golden Book Videos:

  • Get Ready for School (Golden Step Ahead 1986, 1991).
  • The Gingerbread Man and Other Nursery Stories (Golden Book 1985)
  • Old MacDonald's Farm and Other Animal Tales (Golden Book 1986)

Random House Videos:

  • Best ABC Video Ever! (Random House 1989)[9]
  • Best Counting Video Ever! (Random House 1989)[10]
  • Best Busy People Video Ever! (Random House 1993)
  • Best Learning Songs Video Ever! (Random House 1993)
  • Best Silly Stories and Songs Video Ever! (Random House 1994)
  • Best Sing-Along Mother Goose Video Ever! (Random House 1994)
  • Huckle and the Beanstalk (sometime on DVD in the future)

The Busy World of Richard Scarry:

  • Summer Picnic and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • The Best Birthday Present Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • The Busiest Firefighters Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • The Best Babysitter Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • Mr. Frumble's New Cars and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • A Trip To The Moon and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • The Snowstorm and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993)
  • Sally's First Day At School and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • New Friend On The Block and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • The Best of the Busy World of Richard Scarry (Cinar 1993)

Richard Scarry's:

  • The Best Birthday Party Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • Now I Know My 123's and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • The Best Spelling Bee Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • Practice Makes Perfect and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • Making Progress and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • Be My Valentine and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • The First Easter Egg Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • The First Halloween Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • The Best Christmas Present Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • The Best Christmas Surprise Ever and 2 other stories (Cinar 1993, 1994, 1995)


  1. ^ a b c New York Times obituary of Richard Scarry
  2. ^ Lipson, E. R., "Ole C. Risom, 80, Publisher of Children's Books", New York Times, Aug. 24, 2000.
  3. ^ Carnegie Magazine
  4. ^ Images of Puzzletown package and the toys in use
  5. ^ List of the sets and dates
  6. ^ Lisa Wade, "Social Change and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever", The Society Pages, accessed 16 October 2013.
  7. ^ Alan Taylor, "The Best Word Book Ever, 1963 and 1991"], Flickr page accessed 16 October 2013.
  8. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Richard Scarry". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. 
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links[edit]