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Richard Scarry, American children's book illustrator

Updated on June 10, 2012

Biography of artist Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry was the talented writer and illustrator of at least 300 books. Worldwide sales of over 300 million copies.

I have searched the Internet and compiled, in chronological order, the major events in Richard Scarry's life. Some websites contradict each other, and some are direct cut-and-paste plagiarized versions of each others' websites!

But I have tried to narrow down the information that makes sense and is validated by several sources. Keep in mind that this may not all be accurate, but I tried to form a timeline that will hopefully paint a partial picture of Richard Scarry's life.

Richard Scarry - Biographical Timeline

Life and Work

June 5, 1919: Richard McClure Scarry was born in Boston MA. He had three brothers, John James, Edward and Leo.

(Date): At his father's urging, he attended but dropped out of business school - he didn't like it.

1939 to 1942: Studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

(Date?): Moved to New York and began work as a freelance illustrator.

(Date?): Archipenko Art School, Woodstock, NY

(Date?): Eliot O'Hara Watercolor School, Gooserocks Beach, ME

1942-1946: Drafted and served in the U.S. Army as an art director, editor, and writer of information publications in North Africa and Italy.

1945: Worked for art department of Vogue Magazine/Conde Nast Publication for two weeks, but was fired with no explanation except that he wasn't "right" for the position. (their loss)

1947: Began illustrating books

1948: Married Patricia ("Patsy") Murphy, a writer of children's textbooks. Some sources say they met at a cocktail party, some say it was during a collaborative work project. (care to place bets?)

1949: First book, Two Little Miners published by Little Golden Books. Five other children's books were published by Simon and Schuster.

1951: The Great Car and Truck Book published (some sources claim this was his first book, not Two Little Miners. The Great Car and Truck Book featured human characters, not animals.

1959: Moved with his family from Ridgefield, CT to Westport.

1963: Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever published

1965: Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World published

1966: Storybook Dictionary published

1968: Family moved to Lausanne, Switzerland

1968-69: Switched publishers from Little Golden Books to Random House

1972: Purchased chalet/studio in Gstaad. Worked on writing and illustrating from 8 am to 4 pm, telling his wife only to interrupt him for lunch.

Over the next few years he traveled with his wife in Africa and the Far East.

1973: Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book is published.

1976: Receives some hate mail and is accused of racism and sexism presence in his books - Random House alters and reissues some book editions. New York Times: Richard Scarry's People Human and Sexist Pigs (the term "Political Correctness" has not yet been coined)

1980s: Eyesight worsens, due to macular degeneration.

1985: Finished drawings for the Biggest Word Book Ever

April 30, 1994: Richard Scarry died in Gstaad, Switzerland at age 74. He had Cancer of the Esophagus which probably led to his fatal heart attack. Richard Scarry's New York Times Obituary. His wife Patsy died in 1995.

Biographies of Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry was a fairly private person, so he didn't give many interviews, but here are the biographies I could find.

Richard Scarry Books - available from Amazon

Great Author and Illustrator

One of my favorite things about Richard Scarry is the way he illustrated books for children. Sure, the parents love them too, but if you look closely, he put all the little extras in his books that make them a secret world between the book and the child's imagination.

Looking at one of his learning and yet comic type books like Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, you can search each page for Goldbug ... a fun and friendly little bug character who could be anywhere, doing anything.

In a more 'seriously' illustrated book by Scarry, like the classic Golden book The Gingerbread Man, you can notice the little cat licking his lips below the table, hoping to get to eat the Gingerbread Man himself! Closer inspection of the drawings show all kinds of insects - ladybugs, grasshoppers, ants. All those little things weren't necessary to the illustrations. But they ARE there, and they're what make his illustrations truly special and fun.

Suggestions, corrections, altercations? I would love to hear from you.

Drop me a line...

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    • profile image

      bdkz 9 years ago

      I LOVE Richard Scarry! 5 Stars and a Squid Angel Blessing!

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 8 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I Love him. You will always see something you didn't see before every time you read one of his books.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I used to have a book as kid and have been looking everywhere for it but I don't what its called or who its by. It looks like a Richard Scarry book and is about transport. I spose it's a kind of educational book as it has big two page drawings of different types of transport with lots of cross sections and loads of detail about what things do and what jobs the characters do. Anyone know what it is?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      He also had a sister, Barbara.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      My son had a book which contained a story about the Greatest hunter in the West who hunted moose, a strory about a fox, one about ducks, one about a blackbird who didn't think he was handsome plus perhaps a couple more. Wehad this book about 1970. Does anyone know the title please

      /thanks

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 7 years ago from Minnesota

      I was going to do a lens about Richard Scarry but this one is so complete that it would be redundant! Good job! Richard Scarry was a favorite of my children and we still have the books we collected when they were little. We still read them to the grandchildren when they visit.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Finding Goldbug was a daily event around here when my son was a toddler and then it was repeated with my grandson. I think we own every Richard Scarry book and enjoy them all but the favorite is Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. We are big Richard Scarry fans at this house.

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      [in reply to CherylK] I'm so glad you liked the page on Richard Scarry https://hubpages.com/literature/richardscarry . I learned so much while making this page.

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      [in reply to OhMe] I'm glad you liked the page on Richard Scarry. The idea of Goldbug was brilliant, in my opinion, because it gave people another way to enjoy the book. I'm sure the author of the "Where's Waldo" books had to be influenced by searching for Goldbug!

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      [in reply to Movin] I'm sorry, I don't know the book, it sounds good though! Have you tried asking a rare books bookseller? A reference librarian might also be able to help you. Online, www.alibris.com is a pretty good rare bookseller. Hope this helps!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      wow

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you, Kelli!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @Darla Dixon: thanks for the info im doing a report and this helped a lot

    • profile image

      scottsbooks 7 years ago

      Hello ddixonart â

      I am a bookseller specializing in rare children's books and a member of the NH Antiquarian Booksellers Association. AND, an expert on the works of Richard Scarry.

      Just a few notes on Richard Scarry and his books/bio; I have the only collection of his books that contains all his work. It is quite massive, over 50 large crates. This fall 2010, my comprehensive bibliography and guide to identification of first editions on the works of Richard Scarry will be published by Custom Communications.

      Information on my book will be available on our bookstore's (Scott's Books) main website on www.scottsbooks.com - My book will have colored photographs of every book cover published, as well as many unpublished works that I own. Pricing and other info has not yet been determined. I have deadlines with my publisher this week to provide total # of pages, and total # of photos. My book will NOT be a biography, although information regarding Scarry in relation to writing certain titles will be included.

      I have multiple copies of about 85% of his books. There is NO complete, correct listing of ALL his books *anywhere* on the internet. I have researched Scarry and his work for over 20 years. The listing of Scarry's books in the biography you included on Squidoo by kirjasto.sci.fi contains many errors, omissions, etc. The best current biography on Scarry titled "The Busy, Busy World of Richard Scarry" was written by Walter Retan (his editor) and Ole Risom (art director & close friend of Scarry's) in 1997, published by Abrams. It also contains an incomplete title list.

      In another post, I will provide the titles of the books inquired in these posts.

      If you send me an email to info@scottsbooks.com, I will provide you with my phone number and answer any questions you may have.

      BTW, you did a fine job of consolidating the info on Scarry for your narrative.

      Best regards,

      Scott Marshall

      Scott's Books

      Milford, NH

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 6 years ago from WNY

      This is an amazing lens! I grew up reading Richard Scarry books and always loved them....they were some of my favorites. :) Thanks for putting this together.

    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 5 years ago

      What a walk along memory lane!!! I had two or three Richard Scarry´s books, when I was a child, and I really loved them! What good memories!!!! So, thank you for your lens!!!!

    • profile image

      agent009 5 years ago

      I remember reading several of his books in elementary school, such a long time ago.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have Richard Scarry's first book Golden Book Two Little Miners, any idea of value?

    • profile image

      scottsbooks 4 years ago

      Hello - Two Little Miners (TLM) was actually the first of his books to be published in 1949. Boss of the Barnyard was completed previous to Two Little Miners, but was held up in publication due to the new Golden Story format. TLM is actually quite common even in a first printing (if the last page, bottom right corner has an "A", it's a first printing). Even in FINE condition, it's not really worth more than $15-$20.

      Regards,

      Scott Marshall

      Scott's Books

      (author of "A Bibliography and Guide to the Identifications of First Editions of the Complete Works of Richard Scarry" - Pub. April/May, 2013 By Custom Communications. The ONLY complete, correct bibliography on Richard Scarry's books)

    • profile image

      scottsbooks 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello - Two Little Miners (TLM) was actually the first of his books to be published in 1949. Boss of the Barnyard was completed previous to Two Little Miners, but was held up in publication due to the new Golden Story format. TLM is actually quite common even in a first printing (if the last page, bottom right corner has an "A", it's a first printing). Even in FINE condition, it's not really worth more than $15-$20.

      Regards,

      Scott Marshall

      Scott's Books

      (author of "A Bibliography and Guide to the Identifications of First Editions of the Complete Works of Richard Scarry" - Pub. April/May, 2013 By Custom Communications. The ONLY complete, correct bibliography on Richard Scarry's books)

    • profile image

      scottsbooks 4 years ago

      Hello Darla,

      In reading over your timeline on Scarry, and regarding a reply I just posted, I wanted to clarify a 'what was first' publication issue. You mentioned that 'other sources' had stated that "The Great Big Car and Truck Book" (pub; 1951) was possibly the first book published, as opposed to "Two Little Miners". The reality of this publication question is that "Two Little Miners" (pub; 1949) was indeed the first book Scarry published. However, "Boss of the Barnyard" (pub; 1949) was completed BEFORE "Two Little Miners" and in the hands of the publisher, Simon & Schuster. Although BOTH of these titles were published by Simon & Schuster, the Little Golden Book format was already quite established and titles were coming out rapidly. But, "Boss of the Barnyard" was an entirely new format (A Golden Story Book), and this issue held up it's publication, by just a wee bit over a month. "The Great Big Car and Truck Book" was published almost two years later in 1951 (his second book featuring humans, after "Two Little Miners").

      As an aside note, due to some serious health issues, the publication of my book, "A Bibliography and Guide to the Identification of the First Editions of the Complete Works of Richard Scarry", was pushed out to April/May, 2013. The publisher, Custom Communications in Biddeford, Maine have also published the Dr. Seuss Bibliography by Younger/Hirsch & Joyce Hanrahan's Maurice Sendak Bibliography. My book will be the first & ONLY complete, correct bibliography on the works of Richard Scarry. My website will start advertising & marketing my Scarry Bibliography in January, 2013. Updates & amendments will be available via my website every 12-18 months, as needed. - Scott Marshall, Scott's Books

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