Richard McClure Scarry was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 5th, 1919. He was the second child in a family of five. Richard's father owned a store in Boston named Scarry's Department Store.
He loved to draw, and so his mother enrolled him for weekly drawing classes at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Later, as a young man, he studied there at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
In World War II, Richard was stationed at Allied Headquarters in North Africa. Here, he was able to put his graphic talents to work by creating information material for the Troops, explaining why they were fighting, and to send them news from home.
Richard gleaned news from articles in TIME magazine, drew maps, and designed posters. This experience no doubt played a part in honing his unusual talent for explaining complicated things in a clear and easy way.
The war over, Richard went to New York to find work as a commercial artist. It was here that he met his wife Patricia, or Patsy, a witty and stunning young woman from Canada. Patsy was a talented copywriter for a major advertising agency. Richard and Patsy were married in 1948.
Richard presented some sample illustrations to a newly-founded publisher, the Artists and Writers Guild, which had begun publishing a collection of affordable children's books: the Little Golden Books. His first illustrated book, Two Little Miners, written by Margaret Wise Brown, was published in 1949. The first book he both wrote and illustrated, The Great Big Car And Truck Book, was published in 1951.
In time, Richard and Patsy moved from the city to a small cottage on a farm in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Here, Patsy discovered that she could not only write ad copy, but also warm and charming children's stories. Patsy and Richard wrote and illustrated several Little Golden Books together, including some of their most beloved works: The Bunny Book, Goodnight, Little Bear, The Country Mouse and The City Mouse, and Best Storybook Ever.
Richard and Patsy’s son, Huck, was born in 1953. The farm cottage became too small for their growing family, and they moved to a rambling beachside house in Westport, Connecticut. When Richard wasn't working in his studio on the third floor, he could be found sailing on Long Island Sound.
Richard’s big breakthrough came in 1963 with the publication of The Best Word Book Ever. The book, which teaches reading using whole words instead of the alphabet, also had a new graphic style that is as fresh today as it was over fifty years ago. By 1985, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever had been translated into 28 languages and sold over 3.5 million copies in the United States alone. It has never been out of print and has sold many millions of copies throughout the world.
Richard and Patsy loved to travel, especially to Europe. Since, to exercise his profession, he really only needed paper, pencils, and paints, Richard decided it would be fun to take more than just a trip to Europe.
He rented out the house in Connecticut for one year, and with no more than three small suitcases, the family moved to Lausanne, Switzerland in 1968 to travel, to ski, and to learn French. But when the year was up, there was no mention of re-packing.
As their son began to leave the household "nest," Richard and Patsy moved from Lausanne to a cozy wooden chalet in the village of Gstaad, where they could literally walk to the ski slopes.
Richard Scarry died in Gstaad on April 30th, 1994, aged 74.