Must be time for another Golden Book… I recently discovered this book was also a favourite of my mum’s so it pre-dates my 1970s childhood. It was published in 1953. The story and pictures are by Richard Scarry, although this book is very different from his Busy Town and Best Ever Word books. Right now in our house, this is not a bad thing. We are going through a phase when the little person would read our copy of The Big Busy Book of Richard Scarry every storytime, while the big people are a little bit over it…
Rabbit and his Friends tells the tale of a Rabbit who discovers a roly-poly egg outside his hole one day. Thinking it belongs to Mrs Hen, he quickly runs to tell her. But when the egg hatches, they discover it is not a chick, but a very strange animal with a tail and fur coat like their friend the Beaver, webbed feet just like Duck, and who is shy like Squirrel. The other animals all come to meet him, but soon have to rush home to supper, leaving the strange-looking animal (who we can see is a platypus) to fend for himself. The next day, his new friends return, but cannot find him, until they come across a circus and when they are let in, they discover the platypus has a new home – the circus man has asked him to be in his cricus and given him a diving board and swimming pool. And best of all, he has lots of animal friends – and he is a little bit like them all.
Richard Scarry is famous for his anthropomorphic illustrations where animals have human characteristics. The animals in this book have clothes, but are a bit more naturalistic, and less stylised than Scarry’s more famous ones. Perhaps this is because it was one of his earlier books. But a glance at the interpretation of Rabbit shows he is clearly a relative the rabbits of Busy Town.
There is a fascinating side-by-side comparison of a select few pages from a 1963 and a 1991 edition of Richard Scarry illustrations found here. Have a look if you are interested in the decisions made to make the illustrations more politically correct – the comments made to this Flickr site are also interesting.
This lovely blog shows what looks like an earlier edition of Rabbit and his Friends which has some additional illustrations to the my 1977 edition.
There is also a lengthy and slightly tongue-in-cheek biography of Richard Scarry to be found here. It describes the process of illustration Scarry used, drawing them in pencil on frosted acetate and filling in each colour one-by-one.
I will leave the last word of this post to Richard Scarry himself:
I’m not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten. I am very happy when people have worn out my books, or that they’re held together by Scotch tape.
This will undoubtedly be true in our house.