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12 Busy Facts About Richard Scarry

Chances are pretty good that you have a Richard Scarry book or two in your collection—more than 100 million of his books have been sold. In honor of what would have been his 97th birthday today, here are a few facts about the man behind Busytown.

1. HE DREW MAPS FOR THE ARMY.

After being drafted into the army during World War II, Scarry was assigned a job repairing radios. It didn't go well. He was relocated to a job that would make better use of his talents, and ended up spending several years drawing maps, illustrating propaganda, and creating promotional signs. When Captain Scarry was discharged, he went to New York to pursue a career as a commercial artist.

2. SCARRY GOT A JOB AT VOGUE—AND WAS PROMPTLY FIRED.

He quickly landed a dream job: a position in the art department at Vogue magazine. He was only there for two or three weeks before he told he was the "wrong fit" for the job and was let go.

3. IT WASN'T LONG BEFORE HE WAS DRAWING FOR LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS.

The first was 1950's The Animals Merry Christmas, written by Kathryn Jackson, and it wouldn't be the last. Among the many titles Scarry illustrated for Little Golden Books was Jane Werner's Smokey the Bear, released in 1955. Scarry's depiction of the little cub in a ranger hat cemented Smokey's status as an icon.

4. HE COLLABORATED WITH WIFE PATSY SCARRY ON SEVERAL BOOKS.

Patricia Murphy was writing children's textbooks when she met Scarry. After they married, she used her talent for understanding how children read and learn to write several books for him under the name Patsy Scarry. Some of their joint titles include the Little Golden Books Good Night, Little Bear and The Bunny Book.

5. AT ONE POINT, EIGHT OF THE 50 BEST-SELLING CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF ALL TIME WERE RICHARD SCARRY BOOKS.

The New York Times reported that in 1989, a Publisher's Weekly list showed that eight of the top 50 best-selling hardcover books belonged to Scarry. This 1996 list ranks Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever at #18, with 3,798,953 copies sold. Richard Scarry's Best Mother Goose Ever followed at #38, I Am a Bunny at #41, and Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever at #46.

6. HIS BOOKS HAVE GONE THROUGH SUBTLE BUT SIGNIFICANT CHANGES OVER THE YEARS.

If you read Best Word Book Ever as a child, and have since purchased a new copy for your own children or grandchildren, keep your eyes peeled for some cultural changes. Stereotypical visual references to "Indians" were removed, both moms and dads are shown preparing meals in the kitchen, and males and females are shown doing jobs that defy dated gender roles. They also removed labels such as "beautiful screaming lady" (being rescued by a male firefighter) and "pretty stewardess." Alan Taylor discovered these differences (and many more) and has posted the before-and-afters.

7. THERE ARE MORE THAN 1400 OBJECTS IN RICHARD SCARRY'S BEST WORD BOOK EVER.

First released in 1963, the book is crammed with a staggering number of things for inquisitive children to discover. "Children like funny situations, detail and lots of action," Scarry once told an interviewer. "Nothing delights me more than to see a child reading a well-worn copy of one of my books held together with tape."

8. SCARRY'S FAMILY IS REPRESENTED IN HIS BOOKS.

The character "Huckle Cat" is named for Scarry's son, Richard Scarry Jr. The illustrator deemed his son "Huck" at a young age after deciding that he looked like "a real Huckleberry Finn." Huck's daughter, Olympia, says that she and her sister are also depicted in her grandfather's books.

9. HUCK SCARRY PICKED UP WHERE HIS FATHER LEFT OFF.

When he was just a teen, Huck helped his father illustrate scenes in the Busytown books, filling in colors for Cars, Trucks and Things That Go. Instead of coloring one scene at a time, their method was to color all of the reds in the entire book, then the yellows, then the oranges, and so on. Huck continued the Busytown series after Scarry passed away from a heart attack in 1994.

10. LOWLY WORM WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE A STAR.

The little invertebrate wasn't intended to be a main character, but children absolutely loved him. “He was just a little thing kids could look for,” Huck Scarry told Niagara This Week in 2012. “But he started getting fan mail and drawings from kids.” Scarry gave the kids what they wanted: more Lowly.

11. A NEW LOWLY BOOK WAS RELEASED IN 2014.

Huck discovered sketches and an outline for a new book more than a decade after his father's death. Already well-versed in the Scarry style of illustration, Huck was able to complete The Best Lowly Worm Book, publishing it in 2014—and there could be more to come. "The University of Connecticut holds most of my father's original artwork, including sketches," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. "I am currently looking at whether there might be something complete which might be brought to a finished book. We'll see!"

12. GRANDDAUGHTER OLYMPIA SCARRY IS ALSO AN ARTIST.

Olympia Scarry has followed in the artistic footsteps of her father and grandfather, but on a slightly different path. Though she specializes in nature installations and performance art, Scarry doesn't entirely rule out illustrating children's books someday: "You never know, maybe I will. My father would love that."

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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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