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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World

Okay, everyone! It's Whatever Wednesday time again, the day of the week in which I leave everything up to fate. With my trusty stock of Clue character cards, as well as a small bag in which I put said Clue character cards inside every Wednesday, I will randomly draw a card and whatever card I draw will be the topic I talk about today!

(I wonder how many times I can say the word “card” in one sentence?)

Anyway, let's have a look at which card I've drawn today.

Ah, yes...the Mrs. White card. A great choice for today!

And, looking at the list of topics associated with each coloured card, I see that the Mrs. White card is linked to the last two weeks of the Saturday Smorgasbord, which means that I'll either be talking about a cartoon, or a book series.

But you know what? I think for this week, I'll be combining the two. Yes, that's exactly what I'll do.

I honestly can't remember when the last time was that I featured a book in this blog. It's been a very long time, I must say. And, that fact along kind of saddens me because I was such an avid reader as a child, and am still a huge fan of books and literature today (even though these days, most books that I read deal with either pop culture trivia or true crime stories...interesting combo, I know).

So, I'm going to make up for lost time by talking about one of my favourite books from elementary school. And, would you believe that I bought this book in one of the most unusual places ever?

Well, okay, maybe it's not all THAT unusual. Here's the story.

At the risk of sounding like Sophia from “The Golden Girls”, I'm just going to start off by saying “Picture it. Commonwealth Public School. 1989. I was a second grade student who was very much into books and reading. In fact, I was so into books and reading that I would have rather stayed inside during recess and read books at my desk.

(Confession: I was probably the only kid at my school who hated recess.)

I tell you, there were no shortage of opportunities for me to satisfy my craving for books. Our teachers always had a huge assortment of books for us to read in class, I would literally be a kid in a candy store whenever the Scholastic Book Fair came to our school. And, I think my favourite part of the whole school week was the day in which we were allowed to go down to our school library and spend a whole period there. If I had my way, I would have just hid in the library during the nine years that I spent at elementary school and let the books teach me instead of the teachers. Now, that would have been a cool school experience.

Oh, and as it so happens, there was one event that took place in our library that I absolutely looked forward to. Every year around May or June, the school library would always order brand new books for the library using the money that was raised for the school holiday fundraisers. And, in order to make room for the brand spanking new books, some of the older books that were coverless, in disrepair, or were too dog-eared to be checked out again were boxed up and put on display in the hallway of the school. Before the books were chucked out though, they gave the kids in the school a chance to purchase some of these older books. If I remember correctly, each book only cost fifty cents (which given that we were children between the ages of five and fourteen at that time was a lot of money). I would literally scrape together all the change from my piggy bank just to have the chance to buy at least one book.

Of course, the older I got, the more frustrated I got with the book sale. Because they always called the classes down to the book sale in order from lowest grade to highest, by the time I reached second grade, all the good books had already been bought up by the kindergarten and grade one students. I can only imagine how annoyed the seventh and eighth graders were when they finally got called down to the sale!

However, I remember one book immediately catching my eye at the used library book sale when I was in the second grade. As far as condition goes, it certainly wasn't brand new. The spine was held together with what appeared to be the same tape one would use on a hockey stick, some of the pages were scribbled on with magic marker, and I reckon that the last twelve or fourteen pages or so were torn out of the book. Honestly, how could anybody even think of defacing a book like that?

However, even though the book wasn't in the best condition, I knew that I had to have it. After all, I used to read this author's books all the time at our town library, and always wanted to own one of his books. Problem was that they were very hard to find in my small town, and when they were available, they were quite expensive. To me, it didn't matter that the book was incomplete. After all, it was a book that boasted that it had at least thirty-three mini-stories in one book – well, thirty-one in the case of this book. And, the stories that were complete were absolutely beautiful.

Though, I wouldn't have expected anything less from the late Richard Scarry.

I have to say that I have always been a fan of Richard Scarry's work as long as I can remember. He not only wrote the dozens of books that are associated with him, but he drew all of the illustrations for the books as well. And, one of the key things about Richard Scarry's books were just how much detail he put into each story. Unlike many children's books, which featured human characters, all of Richard Scarry's books featured animals doing all of the things people did. More often than not, he used cats, dogs, mice, and rabbits, but occasionally, he would feature pigs, goats, lambs, and even a hippopotamus or two. His death in April 1994 certainly marked the end of a era, and I remember feeling as sad as I did about Dr. Seuss' death when I heard of his passing.

But I always had the book that I bought at that library book sale to remember him by. And, what a book it was.

Today we'll be looking at the gigantic book known as “Richard Scarry's Busy Busy World”. It was published several years before I was born (most sources that I came up with listed a publication date of 1970), but many of the stories in the book are still just as relevant as they are now.

Well, okay...maybe the story about Russia might need to be updated a bit.

But really, the book was one fantastic adventure right after another. Thirty-three stories featuring thirty-three different nations of the world. And, each story was funnier than the next. The outrageous behaviour that each character exhibited, the sight gags, the laugh out loud moments. I loved every single page of that book. And, had I owned the complete full version of that book, I probably could truly love every page of that book, as the copy I owned was missing a few.

So, rather than tell you some of my favourite stories, why don't I show you instead? Mind you, these are not my own personal scans. My beloved book seems to have gone missing over the years. But looking at them all over again certainly brings great joy to my face, and the memories come flooding back. Allow me to share those memories with all of you now.  Because I always say that a picture is always worth a thousand words.

(And because I haven't got a whole lot of time to spare.)

1 comment:

  1. Oh, jeez, I remember this! I used to love to read it as a kidlet. I think my copy literally felll to pieces. I wish they'd reprint it.