Controversy Quickly Corrected
Of course, that’s not to say Richard’s work was always free from issues revolving around political correctness. While his Big, Busy World books were based around real observations he noticed while traveling, the post seventies world was far less accepting of a near-sighted panda from Hong Kong or Manuel of Mexico with a pot of beans on his head. As a result, he largely stopped writing these titles and Random House stopped distributing the titles.
As if that weren’t enough controversy, mothers soon started being offended by Scarry’s decidedly fifties roles of housewives taking care of the children while the husbands go off to work. Really though, Richard wasn’t sexist, he was just not with the times. As soon as he heard the complaints, he happily revised his images to show female farmers and police officers and men pushing strollers and cooking in the kitchen. If you’re interested, the differences between the versions are well documented in this Flickr set by user Kokogiak.
The Patented Scarry Work Process
While the artist originally started painting his works in full-color watercolors, his signature books are all done using a work process he perfected throughout the years. First he would sketch out his panels with pencil, then he would re-draw the finalized versions with blue pencil. Then he would color in all the red areas on every page, then blue, then yellow, etc. and at the end, he would draw in all the detail lines with a pen.
After he finished the works, he would tape on his narrative texts that quickly pecked out on a typewriter. Many of these contained spelling errors and other typos, but he left that to the editors to worry about. Despite his popularity, Richard was always an artist first and a writer a distant second.
While he always hated leaving white space and loved complicated machineries and cut-away diagrams, his early titles aren’t as loaded with these aspects. When things progressed on though, his titles were increasingly complex. By the time he completed his final work, Richard Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever, the sixty-six year old Scarry’s eyesight was failing miserably, but that didn’t stop him from finishing the artwork for the monstrous 15 3/4 x 24 inches book. It was so large that Random House had to charge $29 per copy, but it was so popular that the first printing sold out in no time despite the price.
Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, 1963 vs 1991 editions (with revisions). The 1963 edition is my own, bought for me in the late 60's when I was a toddler, and read to tatters. The 1991 edition belongs to my kids today. I was so familar with the older one that I immediately started noticing a few differences, and so have catalogued 14 of the more interesting differences here in this collection.