Eric Carle

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Eric Carle
Born (1929-06-25) June 25, 1929 (age 91)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, illustrator
Alma mater
GenreChildren's picture books
Notable works
Notable awardsLaura Ingalls Wilder Medal
Years active1963–present
Barbara Morrison
(m. 1973; died 2015)

Eric Carle (born June 25, 1929) is an American designer, illustrator, and writer of children's books. He is most noted for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a picture book that has been translated into more than 66 languages and sold more than 50 million copies, equivalent to 1.8 copies sold every minute since it was published in 1969. His career as an illustrator and children's book author took off after he collaborated on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He has illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, and more than 145 million copies of his books have been sold around the world.[2]

In 2003, the American Library Association awarded Carle the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (now called the Children's Literature Legacy Award), a prize for writers or illustrators of children's books published in the U.S. who have made lasting contributions to the field. Carle was also a U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010.[3]

Early life[edit]

Eric Carle was born on June 25, 1929 to Johanna and Erich Carle in Syracuse, New York. When he was six years old, his mother, homesick for Germany, led the family back to Stuttgart. He was educated there and graduated from the local art school, the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. Eric's father was drafted into the German army at the beginning of World War II (1939) and taken prisoner by the Soviet forces when Germany capitulated early in 1945 (the end of the war in Europe). He returned home late in 1947 weighing 85 pounds. "When he came back, he was a broken man," Carle told The Guardian years later. He was a "dead man, psychologically, physically devastated."

Eric had been sent to the small town of Schwenningen to escape the bombings of Stuttgart.[4] When he was 15 the German government conscripted boys of that age to dig trenches on the Siegfried line. He does not care to think about it deeply and says his wife thinks he suffers from post-traumatic stress.

"You know about the Siegfried line? To dig trenches. And the first day three people were killed a few feet away. None of us children -- Russian prisoners and other conscripted workers. The nurses came and started crying. And in Stuttgart, our home town, our house was the only one standing. When I say standing, I mean the roof and windows are gone, and the doors. And, well, there you are."[5]

Always homesick for America, Eric dreamed of returning home one day. He eventually made it to New York City in 1952 with only $40 in savings and landed a job as graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War and stationed in Germany[6] with the 2nd Armoured Division as a mail clerk.[4] After discharge he returned to his old job with The New York Times. Later he became the art director of an advertising agency.

Writing and illustrating career[edit]

Educator and author Bill Martin, Jr. first noticed the illustration of a red lobster Carle had created for an advertisement and asked him to collaborate on a picture book.[7]

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 1967 and became a best-seller. This began Carle's career as an illustrator and he was soon writing and illustrating his own stories. His first books as both author and illustrator were 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969).

Eric Carle's art is distinctive and instantly recognizable. His artwork is created in collage technique, using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form bright and colourful images. Many of his books have an added dimension—die-cut pages, twinkling lights as in The Very Lonely Firefly, even the lifelike sound of a cricket's song as in The Very Quiet Cricket.

The themes of his stories are usually drawn from his extensive knowledge and love of nature— an interest shared by most small children. Carle attempts to make his books not only entertaining but also to offer his readers the opportunity to learn something about the world around them. When writing, Carle attempts to recognize children's feelings, inquisitiveness and creativity, as well as stimulate their intellectual growth; it is for these reasons (in addition to his unique artwork) that many feel his books have been such a success.

In his own words:[8]

With many of my books I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?

I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases, we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books, I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.

Later life[edit]

For over 30 years, Carle and his second wife, Barbara Morrison, lived in Northampton, Massachusetts.[9] As of 2019, he lives in Key West, Florida. Carle has a son and a daughter.[10]

With his wife, he founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art 44,000 sq ft (4,100 m2) devoted to the art of children's books in Amherst adjacent to Hampshire College as part of the Hampshire College Cultural Village. The Museum has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors, including more than 30,000 school children, since it opened its doors in 2002.

Eric Carle has received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities including Williams College in 2016,[11] Smith College in 2014, Appalachian State University in 2013 and from Bates College in 2007.[12]

Google paid tribute to Carle and his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by asking him to design the logo "Google doodle", introduced on its home page on March 20, 2009, celebrating the first day of spring.[13] He also designed a "Google doodle" with autumnal theme for the use in Southern Hemisphere.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was chosen by Jumpstart for Young Children as the book for Read For the Record 2009 on October 8 of that year. The program encourages educators, librarians and parents to try to have as many as possible read the same book on the same day all over the world.

Carle has won numerous awards for his work in children's literature,[14] including the Japan Picture Book Award, the Regina Medal and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators,[15] and most for his collages, all from 1989 to 2008.[clarification needed] In 2003, he received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (now called the Children's Literature Legacy Award),from the professional children's librarians, which recognizes an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children".[16] The committee cited his "visual observations of the natural world" and his innovative designs: "Taking the medium of collage to a new level, Carle creates books using luminous colors and playful designs often incorporating an interactive dimension, tactile or auditory discoveries, die-cut pages, foldouts, and other innovative uses of page space."[17]

In a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was voted the number two children's picture book behind Where the Wild Things Are.[18][19]

In 2019, a jumping spider mimicking a caterpillar was named in Carle's honor, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and to celebrate his 90th birthday.

The Frist Art Museum exhibition Eric Carle's Picture Books: Celebrating 50 Years of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" will be on display October 18, 2019, through February 23, 2020.[20] In November 2019, Carle sold his publishing rights to Penguin Random House.[21]

Selected Works[edit]

  • 1965, Aesop's Fables for Modern Readers (Peter Pauper Press) (illustrator)
  • 1965, Nature Thoughts: A Selection (Peter Pauper Press) (illustrator)
  • 1966, On Friendship: A Selection (Peter Pauper Press) (illustrator)
  • 1967, Flower Thoughts: A Selection (Peter Pauper Press) (illustrator)
  • 1967, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (illustrator)
  • 1968, 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo
  • 1969, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • 1970, Pancakes, Pancakes!
  • 1970, The Tiny Seed
  • 1970, Tales of the Nincompoop (illustrator)
  • 1970, The Boastful Fisherman (illustrator)
  • 1971, Feathered Ones and Furry (illustrator)
  • 1971, The Scarecrow Clock (illustrator)
  • 1971, Do You Want to Be My Friend?
  • 1972, Rooster's Off to See the World
  • 1972, The Very Long Tail
  • 1972, The Secret Birthday Message
  • 1972, Walter the Baker
  • 1973, Do Bears Have Mothers Too? (illustrator)
  • 1973, Have You Seen My Cat?
  • 1973, I See a Song
  • 1974, Split-page book collection:
    • My Very First Book of Numbers
    • My Very First Book of Colors
    • My Very First Book of Shapes
    • My Very First Book of Words
  • 1974, Why Noah Chose the Dove (illustrator)
  • 1974, All About Arthur
  • 1975, The Hole in the Dike (illustrator)
  • 1975, The Mixed-Up Chameleon
  • 1976, Eric Carle's Storybook, Seven Tales by the Brothers Grimm
  • 1977, The Grouchy Ladybug
  • 1978, Watch Out! A Giant!
  • 1978, Seven Stories by Hans Christian Andersen (sequel to Seven Tales by the Brothers Grimm)
  • 1980, Twelve Tales from Aesop
  • 1981, The Honeybee and the Robber
  • 1982, Otter Nonsense (illustrator)
  • 1982, Catch the Ball!
  • 1982, What's for Lunch
  • 1983, Chip Has Many Brothers (illustrator)
  • 1984, The Very Busy Spider
  • 1985, The Foolish Tortoise (illustrator)
  • 1985, The Greedy Python (illustrator, companion to The Foolish Tortoise)
  • 1985, The Mountain that Loved a Bird (illustrator)
  • 1986, All Around Us
  • 1986, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me
  • 1986, Group of small-format books:
    • My Very First Book of Sounds
    • My Very First Book of Food
    • My Very First Book of Tools
    • My Very First Book of Touch
    • My Very First Book of Motion
    • My Very First Book of Growth
    • My Very First Book of Homes
    • My Very First Book of Heads
  • 1986, All in a Day (Mitsumasa Anno editor)
  • 1987, A House for Hermit Crab
  • 1988, The Lamb and the Butterfly (illustrator)
  • 1988, Eric Carle's Treasury of Classic Stories for Children
  • 1989, Animals Animals (illustrator)
  • 1990, The Very Quiet Cricket
  • 1991, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (illustrator)
  • 1991, Dragons Dragons (illustrator)
  • 1992, Draw Me a Star
  • 1993, Today Is Monday (illustrator)
  • 1994, My Apron
  • 1995, The Very Lonely Firefly
  • 1996, Little Cloud
  • 1997, From Head to Toe
  • 1997, Flora and Tiger: 19 very short stories from my life
  • 1998, Hello, Red Fox
  • 1998, You Can Make a Collage: A Very Simple How-to Book
  • 1999, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle
  • 2000, Does A Kangaroo Have A Mother, Too?
  • 2000, Dream Snow
  • 2002, "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth
  • 2003, Where Are You Going? To See My Friend! (with Kazuo Iwamura)
  • 2003, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? (illustrator)
  • 2004, Mister Seahorse
  • 2005, 10 Little Rubber Ducks
  • 2006, My Very First Book of Numbers
  • 2007, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? (illustrator)
  • 2007, Eric Carle's ABC
  • 2008, The Rabbit and the Turtle
  • 2009, Google logo design (illustrator)
  • 2009, The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Buggy Book
  • 2009, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Pop-Up Edition (40th Anniversary Tribute Book)
  • 2010, Up in the Sky
  • 2011, The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse
  • 2011, Tom Thumb
  • 2011, A Very Colorful Day
  • 2012, Shapes to See, Shapes to Draw!
  • 2013, Friends
  • 2013, Animal Babies
  • 2013, All Around Us
  • 2014, What's Your Favorite Animal?
  • 2015, The Nonsense Show
  • 2015, How Things Grow
  • 2015, Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • 2015, The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Christmas 1 2 3
  • 2016, The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC
  • 2016, I Love Mum with the Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • 2017, My First PEEK-A-BOO Animals
  • 2017, Merry Christmas from the Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • 2017, What's Your Favorite Color?
  • 2018, What's Your Favorite Bug?
  • 2019, What's Your Favorite Food?
  • 2020, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? / Oso bebé, oso bebé, ¿qué ves ahí? (Bilingual board book - English / Spanish)
  • 2020, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? / Oso polar, oso polar, ¿qué es ese ruido? (Bilingual board book - English / Spanish)


  1. ^ "The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Mourns the Loss of Co-Founder Barbara Carle". The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  2. ^ data supplied by the business office of Eric Carle Studio, Oct 2013
  3. ^ "2010 HCA Winners and Finalists". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". IBBY. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  4. ^ a b Carl, Eric (1996). The Art of Eric Carle. New York, NY: Philology Books. ISBN 0-399-24600-2.
  5. ^ Brockes, Emma (March 14, 2009). "This one's got legs". The Guardian.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Fred A. (13 December 2007). "Hungry Caterpillar in the Florida Keys". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Eric Carle, creator of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar,' turns 90". DW.COM. 2019-06-25. Retrieved 2019-09-21.
  8. ^ "Biographical Notes for Eric Carle". The Official Eric Carle Web Site.
  9. ^ Bernstein, Fred A. (December 13, 2007). "Hungry Caterpillar in the Florida Keys". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Ulaby, Neda (June 12, 2019). "A Very Happy 50th Birthday To 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'". National Public Radio.
  11. ^ Lemoine, Noelle. "Williams College Announces Its 2016 Honorary Degree Recipients". Williams Office of Communications. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  12. ^ NISSY"Eric Carle". Bates College. Retrieved 2009-02-02.
  13. ^ "Google celebrates Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  14. ^ "The Official Eric Carle Web Site - Awards List". Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  15. ^ "2010 Contemporary: Eric Carle". Lifetime Achievement Winners. Society of Illustrators.
  16. ^ "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  17. ^ "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Winner, 2003". ALSC. ALA. 2003. Archived from the original on 2004-02-16. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  18. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (June 28, 2012). "Top 100 Picture Books #2: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle". A Fuse 8 Production. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  19. ^ "SLJ's Top 100 Picture Books" Archived 2016-11-23 at the Wayback Machine (poster presentation of reader poll results). A Fuse #8 Production. School Library Journal. 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  20. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Frist Art Museum Presents Eric Carle's Picture Books: Celebrating 50 Years Of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'". Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  21. ^

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