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Let's Get Busy

Richard Scarry's books come to life at the Magic House


In the extremely large world that children inhabit, adults are confusing, fast-moving beings, often too busy to spare a friendly "hello" as they rush off to who-knows-where. The only insight into this world of appointments and meetings and jobs is through parents, who sometimes fall prey to that same sense of hurry-up that plagues all the other distracted adults.

Fortunately, Richard Scarry, author and illustrator of numerous beloved children's books, has for years served as a guide to countless children. His books, populated by a cast of animals who live in a town much like yours (named Busytown), depict the intricacies of adult life in friendly colors and with simple explanations. What Do People Do All Day?, Busy Town, Busy People and Busiest People Ever explain mass transit, office employees, construction workers and police officers through the actions of Officer Flossie, Bananas Gorilla, Mr. Frumble, Huckle the Cat (and family) and Lowly Worm. Scarry's use of animals and color and a beguiling sense of imagination (cars shaped like pickles or large fruits, for example) make the larger world seem less strange, but no less fun.

And now Busytown comes to St. Louis. The Magic House and John F. Kennedy Community Center in Koch Park host a 5,000-square-foot reproduction of Scarry's Busytown, so children can visit and explore Scarry's world in person. Designed for ages two to ten, Busytown features a grocery store, factory, power plant, construction area and shipyard, all with working gears, conveyer belts, musical pipes and funnel phones that remain true to the Scarry aesthetic. The only real drawback to this Busytown is that it's too small for adults who have always wanted to step into the pages of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. Still, for the grand opening weekend, Huckle the Cat will make a personal appearance; hugs are sure to follow, regardless of age.

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