Image: Copyright © 2022 by THE RICHARD SCARRY CORPORATION AG. RICHARD SCARRY is a registered trademark of The Richard Scarry Corporation
When the Fairfield Museum opens its exhibit on the life and work of Richard Scarry this October, it will pay tribute to one of the most beloved children’s illustrators and authors of all time.
Scarry died at his home in Switzerland in 1994 at the age of 74. But with 300 million copies of his books sold worldwide, he remains as much a fixture in the lives of young children and their parents today as he did in his prime.
Children feel at home in “Busytown,” the author’s fictional town where every resident has a part to play in the community. If children here feel particularly at home, however, it may be because beginning in the late-1950s, Dick Scarry, his wife, Patsy, and son, Huck, lived in Fairfield County. It was a particularly fertile creative period during which the author drew on his local townspeople and locations—Main Street, the Post Office, Long Island Sound—for material and inspiration.
“When we learned that Richard Scarry lived in Westport and Ridgefield for 20 years, we were excited to look at him not only in terms of his career as an illustrator and an author, but also how his time in the community informed his work,” says Chelsea Garth, curator of the Fairfield Museum, who organized the seven-month-long exhibit. “I think all artists pull from their experiences, so there are in his books a number of really fun visual references to his time here.”
Long-time Westport residents may remember the young illustrator tooling up Main Street with Huck in a black MG Roadste, or sailing the Sound in his 19-foot sloop.
Dick Scarry enjoyed a broad, social circle of fellow illustrators and authors as well as friends like Sidney and Ester Kramer, late-owners of The Remarkable Book Shop, which appears in his 1968 book What Do People Do All Day?
Today, Scarry’s signature anthropomorphic animals—Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm and Hilda Hippo, among others—continue to charm children while transporting their parents back to childhoods of their own.
“This is obviously a children exhibit but it’s also for parents,” says Rachel Hollis, marketing manager for the Fairfield Museum. “I read these books as a child and watched the show ‘Busytown’ on TV, so it’s pretty nostalgic for me and for other parents.”
“The Road to Busytown: Richard Scarry’s Life in Fairfield County” focuses on the main areas of the author’s life and work: home and family life, places and people in the community, and transportation–how residents get around busy towns in the County.
Also in October, the Westport Library Children’s Department is celebrating Scarry’s work by hiding Lowly, from Scarry’s beloved “Lowly Worm” books, in different locations around the library for children to find and by taking a picture of young readers with a cardboard cutout of one of the author’s characters.
The Fairfield Museum exhibit runs from October 7, 2022, thru April 30, 2023, at the Museum, located at 370 Beach Road. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See more at fairfieldhs.org.