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Very Scarry Christmas

An interesting flickr set contrasts the 1963 and 1991 editions of Richard Scarry’s The Best Word Book Ever. In the publisher’s efforts at appearing more P.C., the book became just a little dumber and more condescending. And so it goes.

Studying the wonderful Scarry illustrations in The Animals’ Merry Christmas is one of my favorite childhood holiday memories. I seem to remember every picture vividly; so much so that Kathryn Jackson’s accompanying stories are a blur. There was a story about a polar bear who had to shave his coat and wear red long underwear, another one about a slowly deteriorating stuffed sheep. That’s about it. The copy in our family was a ’70s reprint, but I was surprised to find that the book actually dates from 1950! Maybe that explains why Scarry’s art touched me so much. I coudn’t find any examples from the book online, but Eric Sturdevant’s groovy Old Childrens Books flickr set contains art that conveys a similar look.

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