An Open Letter to Richard Scarry

Dear Mr. Scarry,

I was saddened to read that you passed away in 1994 so I am not able to send this to you in person. I was 11 in 1994, and at that time the idea of having children was horrifying. It has been quite some time since I was 11 and I now have a two-year-old who is fascinated by your books. Right now, his two favorites are Hop Aboard Here We Go! and The Great Big Air Book, we read them a few dozen times a day.

I am writing because there are concepts in your books which he finds extremely distressing.

In The Great Big Air Book none of the characters are wearing shoes. It does not matter that a hippo is unlikely to be walking on it’s hind legs in a swimsuit with an inner-tube and bathing cap, the problem is the lack of shoes. Neither are the little pigs playing in the sand, nor is the fox in the Prussian-inspired flight suit who is smoking a cigar and about to fly an airplane.

The shoe situation is perplexing to him as he is not allowed out of the house without some form of footwear. I have attempted to explain to him they are drawings of animals, albeit animals partaking in human endeavors. They are not real, they are fictional, make-believe, etc. These concepts are lost on him, the unreality of it all does not matter, the problem is they are not wearing “shooo-shooos” (toddler speak for shoes). He is most adamant on this point.

In Hop Aboard Here We Go! (we still haven’t gotten out of the cars/busses/trucks) section, tow-truck driver Roger is going to tow Flip’s wrecked car. There is an accompanying image of the little red tow truck pulling a slightly mangled green car. Flip appears to be fine, he’s sitting in the cab of the truck with Roger, but the car’s fender is bent and the window has a crack.

My son is throughly distressed over this image. We have spent cumulative hours talking about the car, the tow truck and I have tried to reassure him that it will be fixed. That’s clearly not good enough, it needs to be fixed now. Why can’t I fix it? Why isn’t it fixed yet? He points to the dinged up bumper and cracked window, looking at me for reassurance, what happened to Flip’s car? A follow up image with the car being repaired would be nice so that he could see that everything is alright.

It is my sincerest hope that as he moves beyond two and is able to grasp bigger concepts his concerns over hippos in swimsuits but no shoes and fictionally dented cars will dissipate. I enjoyed your books as a child, and I am glad that my son is able to enjoy them as well.

With warmest regards,


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