Sunday, November 10, 2013

Richard Scarry's Life and Work

My favorite coloring book from my childhood,
"Richard Scarry's Best Rainy Day Book Ever"
published by Random House and is out of print.
     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 units worldwide.
      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.
      His Gaelic surname is actually pronounced Ska Ree, originating on the west coast of Ireland, but because American fans of his books had defaulted to reading it "scary", this is the version used in popular video and audio renditions of his books and stories.
      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.
      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. Beavers, raccoons, tigers, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, owls, bears, goats, elephants, foxes, primates, monkeys, chimpanzees, apes, gorillas, crocodiles, dogs, wolves, anteaters, hyenas, lions, baboons, chickens, worms, and insects were just some of the other animals to be featured in Scarry's works. 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.
      In the 1980s and 1990s, many of his 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."

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