The world of Eric Carle

This months artist is Eric Carle; An American designer, innovative illustrator, and writer, Eric is most noted for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a picture book that has eaten its way into millions of children’s hearts across the globe.

American Born

Eric was born to Johanna and Eriche Carle, German immigrants from Stuttgart, Germany. His birth on June 25th, 1929 took place almost exactly four months before the devastating stock market crash that caused the Great Depression later that year. 

HAppy School Days Cut Short

Even though they lived in poverty, Eric was a very happy child. For him, Kindergarten was the best place in the world. He loved his creative classroom filled with brushes, paints and large sheets of paper! However, his mother Johanna had been homesick for their native land for many years. When Eric was only six, they moved back to his fathers native Stuttgart, in what was then Nazi Germany.

New Country New School

Young Eric had a tough time adjusting to the new foreign culture and a new classroom that had little time for creative play. He longed to be back in New York and often asked his mother when they were “going home.” He hoped that, when he was older, he would build a bridge from Germany to America.

Life During The War

With the onset of World War II, the long nature walks Eric had enjoyed with his father came to an abrupt end when his father was drafted into the Army. Eric was only ten years old. During the next six years, the Carle family braved numerous adversities. His father was held as a Russian prisoner of war. To escape the bombing of Stuttgart, Eric was sent to the small town of Schwenningen to live. When he was only 15 years old, Eric and other boys his age were forced to dig trenches on the Siegfried Line (a series of defense points built along the western German frontier in the 1930s and greatly expanded in 1944). Eric did not like to “think deeply” about this time of his life. The bright point for Eric during these troublesome times was his art. With the support of his high school art teacher, Carle pursued his creative passion and finished his schooling with honors. He then continued onto study graphic art at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Stuttgart and graduated in 1950.

Eric's New Life

With the ink barely dry on his college diploma, Eric was on a plane back to his beloved New York! The thought of writing children’s books was the farthest thing from his mind when he pursued a career in advertising for the New York Times.

Eric's Army Career

When the Koran war began, Carl received an Army draft notice for his 21st birthday. After his required service time had ended, he returned to his job at the New York Times.

An Illustrator Is Born

In 1963 Eric left his job at the Times to work freelance and focus more on his own art. It was around this time that Eric met Bill Martin, Jr., a children’s book author. Martin was impressed with a Lobster collage Eric had created. Martin encouraged Eric to experiment with illustration.

In 1967 Martin and Carle published a colorful repetitive book entitled, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, that became a best seller.

With the success of Brown Bear, Eric took on the task of writing and illustrating his own book. His first book, 1, 2, 3, to the Zoo, was released in 1968 and the book that made him famous, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published the very next year!

 

Since its original publication in 1969, the caterpillar has sold more than 46 million copies and has been translated into more than 62 languages. Since then, Eric Carle has brilliantly illustrated more than seventy picture books for very young children. More than 145 million copies have been sold around the world and have earned him awards and honorary degrees in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Eric's Convictions

Eric Carle felt a real responsibility to his young readers. “I am especially interested in a child’s transition from home to school because this can be quite traumatic,” he says. “For me, it was a particularly difficult period in my own life, and I hope my books will help to make this transition easier for children.”

He explained his chosen style of artwork in this way. “I think whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.” He went on to say, “ Artwork should not be trashy and does not pollute the eye.” 

 

Anyone who has seen any of Eric Carle’s book can attest to the fact that his books are nothing but tasteful and appealing to all who view them.

Eric's Museum

In 2002, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art opened in Amherst, Massachusetts. There are three galleries and picture book art from artists around the world. There is, of course, a library, an auditorium, and a hands-on art studio! Over half a million people have passed through its doors.  His wish is that those who visit his museum, much like those who read his books, “will be entertained and learn something as well.”

Eric today

Even at the age of 89 Eric is still creating artwork. His most recent book, “The Nonsense show” was published in 2015 and is already considered to be a “classic.”

Online Resources:

At Eric Carle’s website you can print off coloring pages, play games, learn how to make a collage and even get advice on writing and publishing when you download his “Caterpillar Express” newsletter.

At Teaching Momma.org you and your little caterpillar can enjoy a plethora of Eric Carle activities. What’s more, this site also provides the viewer with links to other great sites for even MORE Eric Carle-inspired activities!