Author Spotlight: Eric Carle

I remember reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) as a very young child. It was a great joy to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly with this incredibly fun and hands-on book. I remember reading each page, putting my little fingers through the tiny holes that the caterpillar eats through the strawberries, plums, oranges, a cupcake, a leaf, and more. I introduced this book to my son when he was just a month old, however, since turning one, we brought this one out again, and I am amazed. He read this book with me for thirty minutes. He loved looking at the bright colors, turning the quarter-cut and half-cut pages, and putting his little fingers in the tiny holes. It has been such a joy to see him blossom and read and love this book, just as I did. Eric Carle has that way with children, he knows just what magic a simple book needs in order to make literacy exciting for a young child.

Eric Carle has written countless children’s books, many of which have been made into board books – the style that we prefer around here – our son has become accustomed to putting both paper and cardboard books in his mouth so we are gently teaching him that he is to respect and care for his books. Carle’s books are unique, in that, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, most of his books feature holes, raised lines, and uniquely-cut pages to captivate a reader’s attention.  This book, in particular, is a childhood sensation.  Bean bags, stuffed animals, pull-toys, coloring books, dishes, etc. have all been made in honor of the very hungry caterpillar.  Many of Carle’s other creatures have been manufactured into toys, etc. as well.  Carle updates his blog regularly; he shares history of his books and tells of new and exciting happenings at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, where he is cofounder with his wife, Barbara.  He describes his technique: “My illustrations are collages made with my own hand-painted tissue papers, a technique many children have replicated and enjoyed in their classrooms and at home.”  And I can attest, as a former kindergarten teacher, that children love to play with tissue paper and try to imitate his work!

His first book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967), written with Bill Martin Jr. has become a children’s classic. I have seen so many children learn to “read” this book as they recite from memory the pages: “Red Bird, Red Bird, What do you see? I see a Yellow Duck looking at me….”  My son also has copies of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? (1991) tells the story of zoo animals and silly children, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you See? (2003) teaches about endangered animals, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See? (2007) focuses on North American animals.

A complete list of Carle’s books shows his diversity of storytelling. His bright colors and tissue-paper illustrations have remained faithful and have thankfully not evolved too much since 1967, he writes on an array of topics. From The Tiny Seed (1970), about the the life cycle of a plant, to Walter the Baker, about the world’s first pretzel, to his My First Book series (1974) about numbers, colors, shapes, and words which teaches children about his first words using a split-page technique. He also loves telling silly, but educational stories about many of God’s creatures, using raised lines, pop-up pages, and other unique techniques: The Mixed-Up Chameleon (1975), The Grouchy Ladybug (1977), The Honeybee and the Robber (1981), The Very Busy Spider (1984), The Foolish Tortoise with Richard Buckley (1985), The Greedy Python with Richard Buckley (1985), The Very Quiet Cricket (1990), The Very Lonely Firefly (1995), The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (1999). His stories exude honesty and assist in any child’s natural love for nature and all things simply beautiful. No child’s library is complete without at least a handful of these colorful books.

**Author Spotlight: I try to share about a different (and phenomenal) children’s author or illustrator every month or two. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and it is important to know about and celebrate these wonderful authors.