Fans of Busytown’s amiable residents are in for a treat. Richard Scarry’s Best Lowly Worm Book Ever!, a never-before-published book starring this Tyrolean hat-sporting character, will be released by Random House on August 26. The author’s son, Richard (Huck) Scarry Jr., discovered the manuscript and sketches for Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! in his father’s studio in Switzerland several years ago. Huck, an author and artist in his own right, decided to complete and color the illustrations for the book, which, true to Richard Scarry tradition, playfully introduces childhood words and concepts.
The studio search was prompted by Neil Dunnicliffe, Huck Scarry’s editor at HarperCollins U.K., who asked him if he was aware of any sketches that his father, who died in 1994, may have done for any unpublished books. “I agreed to have a look around his studio, and in no time I came across a large, gray cardboard portfolio leaning against one of the legs to his drawing table,” he explained. “There were quite a number of sketches inside, but little that would be ready to bring forward as a book, with one exception: a book about Lowly, with all the texts typewritten and taped in place with rough, thumbnail sketches of the layout. The book looked pretty complete.”
Huck (who was so nicknamed by his father after Huckleberry Finn, and whose name in turn inspired Lowly’s friend, Huckle the Cat), has fond memories of lying on the floor of his father’s studio as a child, drawing on a large pad as his father worked on his books. As a teenager, he began working with him on the Busytown books, and has continued to create books in Richard Scarry’s artistic style throughout the years.
An Enduring Family Tradition
Though not an entirely new experience for him as an artist, Huck found completing Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! an exacting endeavor. “Emulating my father’s style, and above all his sense of humor, is always a challenge for me, but I think I got it pretty right this time,” he said. “Although we changed the original format to enlarge it, as well as added several pages, we made a point of not changing the text, so that the book really would remain an as-yet-unpublished book of my father’s.”
Mallory Loehr, v-p and publishing director of Random House Books for Young Readers, noted, “Huck has a fun, artistic sensibility, and slips into his father’s world in a very seamless way. He loves creating his art, and clearly gets these characters in the very same way his dad did.”
Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! features the same uniform cover design developed for the publisher’s Richard Scarry rebranding program, which kicked off in 2013 with a new edition of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever! to celebrate its 50th year in print. The program, which entails scanning the books’ original artwork, will run through 2016 and involves rebranding 10 of the author’s “big books,” as well as some board books and out-of-print titles. Rebranded Richard Scarry editions due this fall include Biggest Word Book Ever!, Pig Will & Pig Won’t, The Christmas Mice, The Night Before Christmas, Best Mother Goose Book Ever, Lowly Worm Word Book, and Good Night Little Bear.
Loehr welcomed the new Lowly Worm adventure to the house’s ongoing Richard Scarry publishing program. “The rebranding of Richard Scarry’s beloved backlist titles has been a huge undertaking and we are so pleased with the outcome,” she said. “This new Richard Scarry title is an even bigger reason to celebrate, and that it is about Lowly Worm, one of the iconic Scarry characters, makes the celebration that much more exciting.”
Did Huck learn anything new about Lowly Worm while completing the book his father started? “Well, only that he can bend himself very smartly into all the letters of the alphabet,” he said. “But I have known Lowly for a good number of years now, and I’d say he’s just about tops in every way. He is just plain fun to be with. I love working with my father’s funny characters. The work also keeps me in touch with him. When I draw, I can still hear his laughter.”
Richard Scarry’s Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! by Richard Scarry. Random House, $15.99 Aug. ISBN 978-0-385-38782-8