Monday, October 16, 2006

Book-A-Day #91 (10/16): Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry

I normally wouldn't have counted this book, but I've read it to Thing 2 both last night and tonight, and it takes nearly a half hour each time. Added up, that's as long as many of the comics collections (and longer than some art books) that I've listed for Book-A-Day, so I'm going to claim it counts.

There's a whole lot of Richard Scarry product out there, and nearly all of it is at least decent. But you do want to make the important distinction between books that are actually by Richard Scarry (that he wrote and drew himself, before his death in 1994) and the TV tie-ins and cut-n-pasted books that have come out since then (and somewhat before, since the TV stuff started up a bit earlier). This can sometimes be hard to determine, since every single one of those books is billed as "Richard Scarry's whatever-it-is" these days.

Most of the major "real" Scarry books are large-format hardcovers, like this one, often with the distinctive Little Golden Book binding. The other ones I'd recommend are What Do People Do All Day? (which has about a dozen shorter stories about different kinds of jobs; it's wonderful for getting kids to think about how the world works, and how people interact day-to-day), The Best Word Book Ever (good for younger kids; there's an interesting comparison of the 1963 and 1991 editions on Flickr), and Great Big Schoolhouse. He usually had lots of labels on his pictures, so his books are great for reading with little kids and talking about the names of things. (I've found that my boys love books with lots of stuff in the art -- labels, hidden characters, details and jokes -- and that those are the books they get the most out of. Scarry is very good in that respect.)

There are also a lot of Scarry 4x4 books; the ones with "Busytown" in their names are probably from the early '90s TV show -- they're OK, but, again, not as good as the pure Scarry stuff. (He was active in children's books from the '50s up to his death, so there are a lot of his books out there.) His character Mr. Frumble is an accident-prone pig, and my boys particularly like him.

Personally, my favorite Scarry book is What Do People Do All Day?; it has a variety of stories, with a nice flow to them, and there's a lot of information presented in a fun and humorous way my kids love. But both of my boys, I think, have liked this one best -- there's a character hidden on every page (and some other "Easter Eggs"), and it's all about cars. Girls probably won't like this book as much as boys, but 4-7 year old boys should adore it.


The probligo said...

It must be twentyfive years since I last read a Scarry book. That one had a multiple (four or two) page spread on how to make a highway - from surveyors to cars driving on it. Fantastic detail, fantastic presentation.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Yup -- the "how to build a road" story is in What Do People Do All Day? Great, great stuff.

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