Tuesday, January 25

Eric Carle, Author and Illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dies at 91 | Books

Eric Carle, the children’s author and illustrator whose classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other works gave millions of children some of their earliest literary memories, has died at the age of 91.

Carle’s family said he died Sunday in his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, with family members by his side.

Through books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see ?, Do you want to be my friend? and From Head to Toe, Carle introduced universal themes with simple words and bright colors.

“The unknown often brings fear,” he once said. “In my books I try to counter this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are creative by nature and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really fascinating and fun. “

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, was greeted by parents and children with its story of the metamorphosis from a green and red caterpillar with a hint of blue and brown to a proudly multi-colored butterfly.

Originally conceived as a book about a bookworm, called A Week with Willi the Worm, the hero, who eats 26 different foods, was transformed into a caterpillar on the advice of his publisher. It has sold 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, spawned stuffed animal caterpillars, and turned into a play.

“I remember when I was a kid, I always felt like I would never be big, eloquent and smart,” Carle told the New York Times in 1994. “Caterpillar is a book of hope: you too can grow and grow. grow wings “.

Politicians like George W Bush and Hillary Clinton were known to read the book to children during the election campaign. The American Academy of Pediatrics sent more than 17,000 pediatricians special copies of the book, along with growth charts and parenting brochures on healthy eating. Writer and illustrator Ted Dewan said the book is one of the pillars of children’s culture. “It almost talks about how great the Beatles were. It is irreproachable, ”he said.

Carle wrote and / or illustrated over 75 books, sometimes partnering with Bill Martin Jr or other authors, but most with Carle working alone. One of his latest books was 2015’s The Nonsense Show, which focused on a parade of flying fish, cat-tamer mice, and circus animals.

Born to German immigrant parents in Syracuse, New York, Carle and her family returned to Germany, Nazi Germany, at that time, when she was six years old. Under the Nazis, modern, expressionist, and abstract art was banned and only realistic and naturalistic art was allowed.

When Carle was 12 or 13, a high school art teacher would change his life by inviting him to his home, where he secretly displayed his expressionist art, including Franz Marc’s Blue Horse.

“I was used to beautiful paintings with a mountain in the background. Although it surprised me, I always held that day in my heart, ”Carle told NPR in 2011. As an illustrator, he said he chose to portray animals in unconventional colors to show his young readers that there are no wrong colors in art. He thanked Marc on the pages of The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.

His father introduced him to the wonders of living beings that he would later immortalize in his books. “When I was a little boy, for as long as I can remember, he would hold my hand and we would go out into nature,” he told The New York Times in 1994. “And he would show me worms and insects and bees and ants and they explain their lives to me. . It was a very loving relationship. “

After graduating from a major German art school, he returned to the United States in 1952. He worked as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times before turning to advertising.

In 2002, Carle and his late wife, Barbara Carle, founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, the 40,000-square-foot non-profit arts center is a showcase of picture book illustrations by all the world. He received lifetime achievement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Library Association.

He is survived by a son and a daughter.


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