Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Richard Scarry

As we all know the great stories of our childhood stay with us.

For us who grew up Eicher this meant Richard Scarry. The two huge books that we had as kids are still with us - and still give delight - both to the new gen of Eichers as well as to the balding (ok bald) one.

Just look at the details that the man was able to fit in. Amazing. Every picture tells a tale - multiple tales - and you just keep having to come back for more and more.

What we have is two very faded books - which have been bound multiple times but are still falling apart - but which are called upon to be read repeatedly. The other set of living antiques that we read regularly are our Ladybird books. I was recently reading one on space to Enoch and saw a diagramme of the Saturn V rocket shown next to the St. Paul cathedral in London and a caption that said 'the Americans are planning to build a rocket..." I looked at the date of the book - 1964. Written before the moon rocket was made. But the quality of kids lit to have cutting edge science / technology available for young minds...

Back to Richard Scarry. One of the things that I love about him is that there is always something going slightly wrong - and yet folks (or more precisely the friendly beasts that inhabit his world) are carrying on cheerfully. There is a basic order in that world and though things go amok for a while, at the end all the kids are asleep in bed and Policeman Louie is driving outside making sure everything is safe (though the odd robber mouse still seems to be lurking about).

The other thing about the Richard Scarry books are how he manages to illustrate basic socio-economic transactions in such an engaging way. The panel on the left shows farmers producing, then selling to the market (this is clearly an abridged version). The farmer then has enough surplus to purchase a new vehicle, plus gifts for his family. The next pages then show how the grocer resells it, and how profits from it and then buys from others in town etc. keeping the whole value chain going.

And this is only one of the stories. There are treatments of forestry, law enforcement, mining, electricity generation, travel by ship, train and airplane, hospitalisation etc. All with the same zany cast of animals. Amazing.

We know of at least two small Eichers who would be happy to host any extra Richard Scarry books that are lurking around your cupboards and could do with a postage trip to India.

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