The means of production
May 4, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

‘Everyone is a worker.’ That is a powerful statement, if you think about it. Richard Scarry wasn’t afraid to paint contemporary American society in such bold strokes. Nor was he afraid to explain commerce and capitalism to children. - What Do People Do All Day.
posted by Artw (34 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
My kids love that book. I sort of do but also sort of don't, because it is, as mentioned, over 60 pages long, and nearly every page is capable of sending me off into an expanded 30-minute lecture about some aspect of the local/global economy. I can generally get through about five pages of it during an average bedtime.
posted by rusty at 11:57 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The link in the article to the flickr set showing diferences between 1968 and 1991 versions is amazing.

I had a Scarry storybook that was 366 stories one for every day of the year..I wonder what the differences are in that!

But besides all that, the way the world is portrayed in kids' book is something I never really gave much thought to before so this is pretty interesting reading.
posted by sio42 at 11:58 AM on May 4, 2011


If you look closely, Lowly the Worm is on every page. But where's Goldbug?!

The other good (very long) one is the stories from around the world ... I can't even find it...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:01 PM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually, my brother and I pretty much ignored any "message" in Richard Scarry books and just played our own "Find the picture of Lowly The Worm" game for each illustration. Sort of like a prototype version of "Where's Waldo".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on May 4, 2011


*toasts mrgrimm*
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on May 4, 2011


Rudolf Von Flugel!
posted by mrgrimm at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2011


Huckle Cat is watching you cultivate
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 12:13 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was easily my favorite book as a kid. I'm happy to see that the edits are gentle and appropriate (if a little arbitrary in the re-gendering of characters). I hadn't noticed the differences between my own and my kids' editions.

Somewhere deep in my subconscious I still think that the coziest place in the whole world is a bunk on a cruise ship. I so wanted to ride in that ship.
posted by CaseyB at 12:13 PM on May 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Middle management bunny provides direct leadership and strategic direction enabling internal clients to deliver solutions that meet and optimize customers' business goals.
posted by Naberius at 12:14 PM on May 4, 2011 [33 favorites]


>I had a Scarry storybook that was 366 stories one for every day of the year..I wonder what the differences are in that!

We have the new edition and one thing I noticed was a Kwanzaa story in December.

If I had to get rid of all our childrens' books except one, it would be a Richard Scary book.

My wife had never heard of Richard Scarry before I got some for our daughter. I always accuse her of being a Soviet sleeper agent, and this is more evidence that this is true.

'Looks like kids everywhere are still being led to believe that the word for "toaster" is "kitchen."'
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tubby Fat Cat buys government policies from Bureaucratic Badger to help him better plunder Middle Class Mouse..
posted by hypersloth at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unemployed Rabbit mostly drinks and sends out resumes to no reply; Freelancer Rabbit does the same thing, but has embraced it as a lifestyle.
posted by klangklangston at 12:25 PM on May 4, 2011 [21 favorites]


But that's not true. The really rich are rentiers, living off the interest on their investments. That is, off other people's sweat, and treating all of us like Lowly Worms.
posted by orthogonality at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unemployed Rabbit mostly drinks and sends out resumes to no reply; Freelancer Rabbit does the same thing, but has embraced it as a lifestyle.

If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times... I'm a BEAR, not a rabbit. *swigs PBR 40ozer*
posted by hippybear at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my house growing up (and my house now, come to think of it) Richard Scarry permeated everything. Scarry's books taught me to read, taught me what people do all day... my dad and I still call errant powdered sugar "white powder clues" from a Sam Cat and Dudley Pig mystery. And like CaseyB, I want to ride on that cruise ship. (Cars in a boat? That blows my mind!)

My parents have a framed reply from Richard Scarry that he wrote in response to a letter I wrote him as a child for a school project. At the bottom is an original sketch of Huckle Cat, Lowly the Worm and Sergeant Murphy just barely keeping control of his police motorbike. I still laugh at the other kids who wrote to Beatrix Potter for that project.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:46 PM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


But that's not true. The really rich are rentiers, living off the interest on their investments. That is, off other people's sweat, and treating all of us like Lowly Worms.

I would so, so love for someone to write and illustrate a Richard Scarry book explaining the players in the global financial crisis. Get to work internet! Crazier things have happened.
posted by odinsdream at 12:51 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recently, my first friend to have a baby had her shower. I spent way too long trying to figure out the right book to give her. Once I saw this in the store, though, it was all over: there was no choice.

If I recall correctly, though, this book confused the hell out of me with regards to 'face flannels', versus 'washcloths'. Why those cats washed their faces with bits of winter pajamas was beyond me.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:51 PM on May 4, 2011


Holy Shit, Infinite Window! Scarry once set me a reply to a letter that I wrote (w/ Dad's help, as I hadn't mastered the art of printing yet) that had a similar sketch! Somehow my little sister got her hands on it, and sadly, the letter was destroyed.

I loved Richard Scarry as a kid and had ALL the Puzzletown play sets. Right up there with Legos for awesome building fun. I'm trying to collect the Brio vehicles & play sets that came out about a decade ago via eBay & Craigslist for my neice and nephew before they get too old for them.

Thanks for this post, Artw.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:07 PM on May 4, 2011


'Looks like kids everywhere are still being led to believe that the word for "toaster" is "kitchen."'

and that the pentecostal look for women never goes out of fashion.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:08 PM on May 4, 2011


Even his bad guys weren't all that bad. Unless you love pie, of course.
posted by tommasz at 1:09 PM on May 4, 2011


Even his bad guys weren't all that bad. Unless you love pie, of course.

And Bananas. I never understood the importance of bananas to the economy until I read Scarry.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:17 PM on May 4, 2011


It was recommended by kch in the "Help me build a library of lefty kids' books" thread posted by RajahKing.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:27 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have always loved the way Scarry's books illustrate for kids (and adults) the way communities work, how even the smallest jobs have an impact on someone, and how any action, even those that seem insignificant, make a difference to someone. My kids and I spent hours poring over page after page of our Scarry books laughing at the funny parts and talking about the friendly characters and who they reminded us of in our own little world. great great stuff.

Oh, and hunting for Goldbug is way more fun than hunting for Waldo.
posted by Ranindaripley at 1:32 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The link in the article to the flickr set showing diferences between 1968 and 1991 versions is amazing.


My copy of Scarry's Busy Busy World (from the 70's?) has one story titled "The Smart Polish Farmer". I'm willing to bet that's been changed in the most recent edition.
posted by Kabanos at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2011


Even his bad guys weren't all that bad.

Dingo is guilty of at least multiple counts of vehicular meterslaughter.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:12 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Richard Scarry was great. Busy, Busy World, the Best Word Book Ever and my maternal Grandmother taught me how to read before I went to school. I credit those three things (Dr. Suess too) with my love of reading, art, and really cool cutaway drawings.
posted by marxchivist at 2:57 PM on May 4, 2011


He doesn't eat the toaster
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, Richard Scarry. I need to get this book again.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:50 PM on May 4, 2011


I still have my copies of "What Do People Do All Day" and "Busy Busy World," which I'm loath to read to my 5-year-old daughter because they are so text heavy. I do occasionally read them to 43-year-old me, though...
posted by AJaffe at 7:25 PM on May 4, 2011


I've been wanting to link to Bat Bean Beam for a long time, but the "no linking to friends" rule made this impossible. Can I recommend you check out Gio's back catalogue of posts? He really is an amazing blogger. Also note that English is not his first language.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:47 PM on May 4, 2011


My brother and I had a paperback copy of this as children growing up in the 80s and I wonder if he still has it...no doubt it would be falling apart. I'd love to see it again because the illustrations were always so fascinating, and as the kind of kid that liked sorting things (y'all have no idea just how much) I seem to have loved just how everything was catalogued just so.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:51 PM on May 4, 2011


Yeah, where's the person who reads MeFi all day while (sortof) working. Note: I am not at work today. Great post, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know why current editions of Scarry's books are abridged? Paper costs? Content?
posted by RakDaddy at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2011


I just picked up an abridged book at our library last night. It's called "Busy, Busy Town" and includes material from Things that Go, What Do People Do All Day, and the airport book.

From comments online, it seems like Scarry's books received quite a backlash at some point, thus the abridging and ribbon-ifying.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:19 AM on May 6, 2011


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