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Richard Scarry’s 10 Best-Loved Picture Books

by Miranda Rosbach

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If you’ve been a child or raised a child in the past 50 years, chances are you’ve encountered a Richard Scarry book. One glance at Scarry’s signature anthropomorphized animals is enough to take you back to sprawling stomach-down on the floor and poring over pictures that categorize the world with colorful characters, each reappearing in various settings over countless books.

Born in Boston in 1919, Richard Scarry spent five years creating graphics for the U.S. Army before a Little Golden Books editor found his portfolio. Scarry went on to create a host of his own characters, illustrating more than 150 books in his lifetime. The whimsy and timeless appeal of his work continues today: not only do Scarry’s books introduce young readers to early concepts, his easy-reader books are ideal for newly independent readers, too.

Celebrate Richard Scarry with these 10 titles that will undoubtedly spark nostalgia for parents and caregivers, while giving a new generation a glimpse into the magical world that Scarry designed.

  • Good Night, Little Bear

    by Richard Scarry

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    It’s time for bed, so Little Bear says good night to his family. Father Bear carries his little one upstairs on his shoulders but then can’t find Little Bear anywhere in his room. A game of hide-and-seek ensues, all while Little Bear remains perched in his clever “hiding spot,” giggling about his apparent invisibility. A bedtime story that never loses its charm.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • The Gingerbread Man

    by Nancy Nolte, illustrated by Richard Scarry

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    Hot out of the oven, an aromatic Gingerbread Man proud of his athletic abilities taunts everyone with the same refrain: “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.” Soon a fox pursues in this classic cautionary tale. An excellent one to read around the holidays, especially with an accompanying baking session.
    (Ages 2 – 5)

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  • Best Word Book Ever

    by Richard Scarry

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    With alphabet and number endpapers, this book immerses children in the familiar routines of Kenny Bear as he gets ready for the day. They’ll peek inside the Rabbit Family’s home and notice each carefully labeled item. Next, they’ll meander through a trip to both the city and country, and sprint through each season as they develop a greater sense of the world around them. With seventy pages and hundreds of vignettes, this classic remains a seminal staple fifty-plus years after its original publication.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

    by Richard Scarry

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    The Pig Family is off to the beach for a picnic. Along the way, they encounter the most varied assortment of vehicles, from a glass-window truck to a pickle truck and the Rainbow Bus Line to a smattering of construction and emergency vehicles. Basically anything with wheels (real or imagined) will carry readers away in this spirited book.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • What Do People Do All Day?

    by Richard Scarry

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    Welcome to Busytown, a place where all citizens contribute to the bustle and hum of their industrious town. With nearly 100 pages, this childhood classic isn’t necessarily meant to be read all in one sitting; rather, it can be savored over days, weeks, and even years.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Pie Rats Ahoy!

    by Richard Scarry

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    Aware that pirates are prowling the seas, Uncle Willy still ventures off on an ill-fated sailing excursion. When the dreaded rat pirates commandeer his vessel and leave him stranded on an island, Uncle Willy cleverly devises a costume to regain his ship and return the nefarious creatures to shore. With pirate language scattered throughout, this is an especially fun read-aloud book.
    (Ages 4 – 6)

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  • I Am a Bunny

    by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry

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    Nicholas lives in a hollow tree and savors the delights of each season as they pass. The quintessential summer spread feels both nostalgic and forever fresh as the young rabbit blows dandelion seeds into the air. A gem of a board book.
    (Ages 2 – 5)

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  • Best Little Board Book Ever

    by Richard Scarry

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    A colorful primer that’s often overlooked, this two-books-in-one is ideal for engaging young minds in first concepts such as colors and everyday words. Besides, who can resist Frannie the bunny?
    (Ages 0 – 4)

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  • Please and Thank You Book

    by Richard Scarry

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    In seven stories, young readers are introduced to concepts of responsibility, sharing, and generally being a good person. Parents will find the reverse psychology humor scattered throughout the perfect dose of instruction for taming any unkind childhood tendencies. Our favorite story in this compilation is "Pig Will and Pig Won’t", a hyperbolic sibling duo made memorable by the extremes of one child always cheerfully helping and the other decidedly not.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Best Lowly Worm Book Ever!

    by Richard Scarry

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    With his signature green Tyrolean hat, Lowly Worm is endearing from the very first page. Follow him through a series of daily routines — eating, getting dressed, and going to school — followed by a clever game of hide-and-seek. An irresistible posthumous Scarry release.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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