Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Richard Scarry Still Takes The Cake!

By Meg Curtis

Parents seeking ways to divorce their kids from that computer need look no farther.  Just plug them into Richard Scarry’s books.  Begin with I Am A Bunny at age one or two, and that child will learn to read along with the best friends in the world. 

His classic works continue the artist’s rendering of human character through animals, made famous by Aesop.  Scarry’s imagination extends this menagerie to worms and pie-rats.  His drawings not only illustrate his stories, but also illustrate how to draw, focusing on lines. 

These books also tempt that child into the outside world, where s/he must learn vocabulary.  In addition, they convey the sense of community.  Truck drivers and fire personnel whiz down the streets of his residence, which always carries the address Busy Town.

What better way to keep that child busy, too—instead of screaming outside or punching noise-makers which drive the neighbors bonkers?  His classic treatments of equipment, vehicles, and words lend themselves easily to related activities—drawing, exploring—walking and walking.

If that child doesn’t make it outside, s/he won’t know it exists.  Scarry brings the outside inside, and never lets his audience forget interaction.  Characters function in ensembles here, illustrating, too, the very nature of friends and family.

I Am A Bunny demonstrates how this interaction begins before a child can even make sentences.  Here is Amazon’s brief synopsis:

I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.

In the spring, Nicholas likes to sniff the flowers, and in the summer, watch the frogs in the pond. In the fall, he watches the animals getting ready for winter, and in winter, watches the snow falling from the sky. This beautifully illustrated, gentle story is one of Golden’s most beloved titles.”

Community begins with a sense of humanity’s interaction with Nature.  Every flower, frog, animal, and snowflake lives in the same world children do.  Cherish books which teach this lesson first.  They supply the foundation which yields compassionate and responsible citizens. 

But cherish these books, too, because they don’t preach or indoctrinate.  They just invite a child into the wonder of a world too curious and fantastic to ignore or misunderstand.  Humor arises naturally here, too—the result of the author’s sly eye when he knows children like his very own. 


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