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Why so few monkeys, Richard Scarry?

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I cannot believe I have not discussed Richard Scarry’s books before. According to Wikipedia* he published over 300 books (and is from Boston, where both of my daughter’s parents are vaguely from). One reason he may be somewhat less read in this household is the relative lack of monkeys. He depicts tons of animals, but monkeys make rare appearances. They are featured in the movement/tail section (image from Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever). “Monkeys have tails, apes do not” is a fact my daughter picked up at the zoo and repeated to me a day later, completely amazing and terrifying me with her knowledge. I had hardly remembered that fact myself, but I am not monkey obsessed. Scarry’s books are children classics and often utterly bizarre. Some of the bizarreness is on purpose (I believe) and is playful. (See primate in banana car wearing three watches, explanation please.) Some of it is a result of being from a different time period, more to follow.

We checked out Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? because of the ideal bookshelf from last week (my daughter has really enjoyed it). I think it was designed to try to really answer, in occasionally excruciating detail (and we have the abridged version), the “why” questions of kids (commented on, with explicit language and with humour, by Louis C. K.). It only answers questions about people who really do things; there is no depiction of someone sitting around reading all day, so I guess I am on my own when it comes to explaining my profession. My daughter hasn’t gotten to the fun sounding “why” stage yet, but she does ask me constantly where people are like “Where did _____ go?” _________ could be a dog, a new friend she just made, a family member, a friend of mine, a friend she hasn’t seen for a while, etc. She will get randomly upset at my answers. For a while she didn’t like that two people lived together. I am unsure why, since she was okay with the fact that they both lived in L.A., has only seen them together, refers to them as a couple, and really likes them both. Sometimes she gets mad that my sister’s dog is in Boston (but it is okay that my sister is there and she likes that the dog lives with my sister). Sometimes she wants more details and I have to make stuff up, because I am not sure what people are actually doing at that moment. Just so my friends and family know, you all spend a lot of time sleeping (my daughter frequently asks where people are when it is bed time; I always tell her they are sleeping. Hey, they could be, who knows). With the help of the Richard Scarry books, like What Do People Do All Day?, I look forward to answering questions like “What did loggers do in the 1950s?” and “How exactly did the postal system work in some abstract country over forty years ago?” I mean, these questions are coming, right? The whys will lead here. To make up for the lack of Scarry so far, it is going to be a week of Scarry and I think a week of What Do People Do All Day?. Don’t ask me why.

*In my non-blog life I do actual research, which involves books, articles, etc. and goes beyond Wikipedia and the OED. Sorry for the sad lack of sources.

3 responses »

  1. Great post! We love Scarry in this house. I grew up with his stories too – did you? I remember saying to someone that my favourite author was Richard Scarry but his books weren’t scary. I was delighted to find an old book of mine, which Holly now has. She thinks the manic abstract nature of them is hilarious too.

    • Thank you! I did. Unlike some of my books I don’t have clear memories of them being read to me, but I definitely remember them being around. They are pretty great for careful studying, which sometimes my daughter does (probably looking for monkeys). That is so nice that Holly has one of yours! And — very cool that you remember saying that (quite a memory).

  2. Pingback: They’re Affably Loveable Douchebags: Louis C.K. | Topless Carrot

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