Somewhere in the boxes of my childhood, I have my “original” copy of Just For Fun. But I hadn’t seen it in so long that I despaired of ever passing the book on, to our son. Until, that is, I found a brand spanking-new copy for sale at the BMV in downtown Toronto (incidentally, a place where I bleed money). The cover says it costs 89 cents, but I’m pretty sure I paid three dollars for it, and if the interweb is any judge, it was a steal: secondhand copies sell for $18+ on Amazon.ca and I saw one on Etsy for around $8.00. Don’t ask me how I got so lucky – BMV had a lot of vintage books that day and some of them had stamps on them indicating that they used to belong to the publishers’ libraries. I nearly bought multiple copies of each set, but then chided myself for being greedy and came home with only this one.
Just For Fun shares many traits with books from my childhood:
- It is a Little Golden Book;
- It is illustrated by Richard Scarry; and
- It is, mysteriously, out of print.
Yes, I know there are lots of books illustrated by Richard Scarry that can be bought. But they are not the same as the wonderful ones I had while growing up and are, therefore, inferior (as an aside, why is the Storybook Dictionary now out of print?!).
But, I digress.
Just For Fun is, says the cover, Richard Scarry’s…but the story is by Patricia Scarry, Mr. Scarry’s wife and occasional collaborator (very occasional, if Wikipedia is to be believed). I am not enough of a Scarry connoisseur to be able to parse the differences between Richard and Patricia, but who cares? What matters is that the book. is. riveting. It really is. I distinctly remember reading and re-reading the book, looking carefully at all of the little animals, and imagining how much fun I could have if only my mother would let me do the things these the animals’ mothers were clearly allowing them to do. It fired my imagination. And if my mother had been more accepting of wanton destruction in her home, it would have fired my actions too.
Here are only a few of the things done in this book that I was not allowed to do:
- Make a treehouse with my friends.
- Somehow obtain and cut up a very large cardboard boxes to wear as a space man outfit while wearing a strainer on my head as a hat.
- Fill the bathtub with water and let it overflow onto the floor while playing with little boats.
- Paint on the walls and floor – even if I promised to clean up afterwards.
- Bang on pots and pans and parade around the house (“When pots and pans are handy/ a big parade is dandy”)
- Get a bunk bed and turn it into a pirate ship.
- Get a small dog and feed it until it turned into a large dog.
- Arrange the dining room chairs in a circle, lying on their fronts, and sit on their backs while pretending to be on a merry-go-round.
…all of which are very reasonable activities and all of which I will do with my son once he is old enough to understand how much fun we are having. That dining-room-chair merry-go-round has been a long time coming!
Reading Ages: The baby likes this book (animals! airplanes!), but it does have (gasp!) real pages. So I suggest as young as 1 (with supervised page-turning). The sentences are sufficiently involved, but not super-complicated, so I would go as old as 6, for kids who want an easy read for themselves, with lots of pictures.
Rating: A, A, A. Come on – it’s an original Richard Scarry.
Most Unreasonable Fun Activity In the Book: Okay, I admit it. It would be impossible to carve a boat out of a log, using only a small penknife, and then to take said boat and a fishing rod to hunt for whales. At the time, though, I was pretty sure that it would be but the work of a moment.
Acknowledgment: Yes, it is unhealthy and uncool to use your kids as vehicles to live out your childhood dreams.