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It's Still a Busy World

Thanks to his son, Richard Scarry's 'Busytown' thrives, with two new CD-ROMs.


Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Mr. Fix-It, Bugdozer--when "Busytown" children's artist and writer Richard Scarry died in 1994, he left behind a world of creations beloved by young children for decades.

That intricately detailed world of gentle learning and comic, anthropomorphic animal folk, however, lives on in books, videos, on television and most recently in CD-ROMs. It keeps growing, thanks to another professional artist.

Writer and illustrator Huck Scarry--the inspiration for Huckle Cat--is continuing Richard Scarry's legacy, and when he speaks about his father, his voice is warm with affection.

"I began helping him [paint the illustrations] when I was quite young," Scarry, 45, said from his home in Switzerland. "Later, when my father had eyesight problems and actually couldn't see well enough to draw, I began drawing some of his books."

So, there was no danger that "The Busy World of Richard Scarry" would come to an end. "The characters are too lovely and too much fun just to leave," he said.

Scarry creates several new "Busytown" books a year, and was involved with the "Richard Scarry's Busy World" TV series--his credit reads "The Best Creative Consultant Ever." He also has worked on CD-ROM projects, most recently, "Richard Scarry's Busytown: Best Activity Center Ever" and "Best Christmas Ever."

"I just have to be sure that the spirit of the content and the look and feel of them is faithful to my father's work," Scarry said.

Richard Scarry, who had illustrated other children's books, hit upon his signature style with the 1963 publication of his classic "The Best Word Book Ever." It was "a graphic style, showing a lot of detail, a lot of things on a large page and he gradually built up a whole collection of characters."

Humor, often slapstick, is also a big part of both the father and son efforts.

"My father was a very funny man," Scarry said, "who saw funny things around him. That's where he got many of his ideas, just by observing things that happened around him in the street.

"He was always very curious and he retained a childlike fascination and spontaneity and joyfulness all his life."

Keeping Richard Scarry's creations alive keeps his father close, said Huck Scarry, a father of four. "Since I'm always working on his work, he's ever present in my mind. I'm very, very happy to be able to do this. And it's a delightful occupation," he added. "I can think of fewer nicer things than to write books for children."

* "Richard Scarry's Busytown: Best Christmas Ever" and "Best Activity Center Ever." Ages 3-7. CD-ROM. Windows 95/98; "Best Activity Center Ever" only: also Macintosh, Power Macintosh, System 7 and higher. $19.95.


Music Makers: The Los Angeles Philharmonic's 1998-99 season of "Toyota Symphonies for Youth" concerts, hosted by John de Lancie (the notorious Q on "Star Trek, the Next Generation") and featuring music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, kicks off Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at 11 a.m. with "Musical Tales."

The concert, aimed at children ages 5-11 and their families, features conductor Kristjan Jarvi and pianist Wayne Marshall in a program including Mozart ("Overture, the Magic Flute"), Ravel ("Mother Goose"), Aaron Copland ("Appalachian Spring") and Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F. Pre-concert chats with the musicians, a musical instrument "petting zoo" and crafts, begin at 10 a.m.

Other concerts: "Striking Sounds," a kaleidoscope of percussion (Jan. 23); "Play It Again, Miguel!," music about music with conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya and 11-year-old violin prodigy Sally Kikuchi (Feb. 20); and "Viva, America!," highlighting the work of Copland and Bernstein (April 24).

* "Musical Tales," Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, Saturday; pre-concert activities at 10 a.m. with concert at 11; $6-$10. Reservations: (213) 365-3500; information: (323) 850-2000.

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