I first heard Mickey Katz on KPFA on the sadly defunct Gershon Yankl Show. I don't even remember what track it was; I just remember that I was dumbstruck. Unfortunately, Gershon isn't too fond of the Great Katz and I had a hard time getting him to ever play Katz again. I started looking for the records whenever I haunted appropriate music hawkers. I have an okay selection of Katz but not as much as I need. Most of Katz's stuff is on Capitol, so write and pester them to put more of it in print. They have reprinted some stuff on a compilation they've called Simcha Time.
Mickey Katz is such a joy because he combines bilingual punnery, a high level of musicianship and a twisted sense of humor. He is recommended listening for Dr. Demento as well as klezmer fans.
I don't even remember when I first saw a Richard Scarry book, but many of his works were in our library when I was young. I'm just the right age to have been exposed to his work in his heyday. I was always fascinated with his books and it's hard for me to explain why in retrospect. He drew funny animals - I was never that much into animals. He drew lots of cars and construction stuff - I was never into that in any other way. If I had to guess, I would say that his crisp style of illustration, the encyclopedic cataloging of jobs and vehicles and the sense of community he depicted came to me. I still remember learning my color-mixing rules from Richard Scarry's Color Book. Another thing I really liked about his books was the symbolism. I don't mean in a heavy sense. I mean that each shop had the kind of old-fashioned shingle that depicted what was made there. Some characters drove cars whose exteriors represented some part of their life, like Bananas the Gorilla's Bananamobile. Scarry's books have been printed in 30 different languages and are great aids for learning a foreign language. You will learn words from translated Scarry books that you would never learn from your standard English - Foreign Language dictionary. When I visited Scandinavia, I specifically looked for Scarry books. I now own about 7 Scarry books in Swedish and Danish translations (e.g. Truckförare och äppelplockare och andra som jobbar). In fact, I don't own any Scarry in English. My parents have those.
Although I haven't seen it, the popularity of his work has been turbocharged by The Busy World of Richard Scarry, which premiered in 1994. It's an animated series produced by CINAR. I don't know how I feel about this (being a fuddy-duddy about the sanctity of my childhood memories). I hope that it encourages kids to seek out the books and to actually read them rather than merely being glued to the TV. I grew up watching TV too, but I also read a lot. My younger siblings feel that my parents' making them pick up a book is cause to call Amnesty International.
Yak Back to Spidra Webster: spidra at speakeasy dot net
Back to the drawing board...
Last modified on 7/20/98
All prose © 1997 Megan Lynch except where obviously not.