Richard McClure Scarry (June 5, 1919 - April 30, 1994) was an enormously popular author and illustrator of children's books. At the time of his death in 1994, it was estimated that some 100 million Scarry books had been sold in the United States and abroad, including 8 of the top 50 best-selling hardcover children's titles of all time. Scarry entered the spotlight with Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever in 1963 and enjoyed continuing success with his Busytown series. He is known for the great detail that he included in his illustrations in a conscious effort to engage young minds.
Scarry was born in Boston in 1919 to John James Scarry, owner of a small chain of department stores, and Barbara McClure. In this environment, a young Scarry was exposed to animal books including the work of the prolific children's author Thornton Burgess. He performed poorly in school, enrolled briefly in the Boston Business School and then moved to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1938, where he studied drawing and painting.
Upon leaving the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1941, Scarry joined the U.S. Army. During World War II, he served as a director for the Morale Services Section in North Africa, where he drew maps and graphics. He advanced to the rank of Captain and left the army in 1946 to pursue a career as a free-lance artist in New York City.
Intending to pursue commercial art, Scarry's career path was diverted after he met Patsy Murphy, a children's author. Scarry won the opportunity to illustrate a children's volume for the recently established Little Golden Books series and secured a steady flow of work. He married Murphy in 1949 and the couple moved to Connecticut where they collaborated on several books and had a son, Richard McClure (Huck) Scarry II in 1953. In 1968, the family moved to Gstaad, Switzerland. In the intervening period, Scarry established himself as a children's author in his own right.
Scarry died on April 30, 1994 in Gstaad.
Scarry's books "tell his stories almost entirely in pictures, with words functioning mainly to link the pictures together."
- Eric Pace. "Richard Scarry, 74, Children's Book Author and Illustrator, Dies" New York Times: May 3, 1994.
- Bobbie Burch Lemontt. 1987. "Richard Scarry" In American Writers for Children Since 1960: Poets, Illustrators, and Nonfiction Authors (Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 61). Glenn E. Estes, ed. Pp. 248-257. Ann Arbor: Gale Research Company.