Saturday, June 30, 2007

Excerpts from Richard Scarry's 'Golden Book Of Manners', 1962

Millions of copies of the hundreds of books by Children's author and illustrator Richard Scarry (1919 - 1994) have been entertaining and molding young minds the world over for decades now.

Looking through the pages of this particular book I'm struck by the visual humor of his artwork.

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There are the simple juxtapositions of size, and some gentle incongruities presented in vivid colors, but there seems to be some more subtle elements woven in here and there as well. Or maybe it's me, maybe I just want there to be.

It would appear that Scarry was a bit of a misanthrope in real life, so a quiet lampooning of the proper etiquette of social situations doesn't seem too big a stretch.

'The editors' acknowledge that animals are better behaved than most children.

Despite any pesky common sense issues, an elephant is offered a tiny chair that clearly will not support him, and a small mouse-girl is cajoled not to be shy around a kitty-cat.

I like the tiger hanging up it's leopard-skin coat, too.

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I'm also amused that the wonderful anthropomorphic animal characters seem to possess more personality than the human children.

Sitting on a train next to a warthog, to me they seem to be thinking to themselves nothing beyond, "I'm NOT staring and pointing, I'm NOT staring and pointing..."

It's just intriguing to see how things work in Scarry's world.

I'd like to see a giraffe putting on its little sailor suit. I'm very curious regarding the drift of the phone message the lion is leaving. And I respect that even the phreak-flag flyin' lion knows to doff his rave hat as the teeny-tiny display of patriotism passes by.

A couple of Scarry links:

A fascinating flickr photoset that catalogs some ot the curious 'P.C. update' differences between the 1963 and 1991 editions of Scarry's 'Best Word Book Ever'.

Scarry led a colorful life, and so there is a very colorful bio page tucked away at the diabolical Rotten.Com.

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