Old-school Richard Scarry picture books get a new world makeover

The adventures of Lowly Worm from Busytown were among my favourite stories as a child. Richard Scarry wrote more than 200 books and sold more than 100 million copies all over the world with his educational picture books that delighted young and old. But times have changed – and the books have changed too.

Subtle – yet necessary – changes have been appearing in new editions of Scarry’s books, some first published in the 50s. Since then, the world has moved in a fast (much more politically correct and inclusive) pace and if you pick up a new copy of one of his books you’ll see the modifications for yourself. Policeman is now police officer, there’s female farmers, a baby cat in a pram is now proudly pushed by its dad – in the original drawings it was clearly mum cat’s job.

richard scarry

Alan Taylor, a senior photo editor at The Atlantic, noticed 14 pages with differences between the original and updated versions, and photographed them.

“The 1963 edition is my own, bought for me in the late 60s when I was a toddler, and read to tatters. The 1991 edition belongs to my kids today. I was so familiar with the older one that I immediately started noticing a few differences,” Taylor says.

richard scarry5

In the Best Word Book Ever, first published in 1963, has ‘handsome pilot’ and ‘pretty stewardess’ on the aeroplane page changed to ‘pilot’ and ‘flight attendant’ in the latest edition.

The holiday page, once dedicated to Christmas and Halloween, now includes Chanukah and a menorah.

And where mumma bear might have once prepared breakfast for daddy bear and he came running when breakfast was called, he now goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast (probably to make it himself). A daddy bunny now appears in a kitchen illustration, cooking on the stove alongside a mummy bunny who is busy preparing food.

richard scarry4

A page of illustrated professions now more accurately reflects the number of females in the workforce, with policeman and fireman replaced by police officer and firefighter. Cowboy is gone completely and in his place is a gardener and a scientist.

richard scarry3

Have you noticed any other children’s books that have updated new editions? We’d love to know.

(via Upworthy, images via Alan Taylor on Flickr)

Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend