If you have a kid, have spent any time around a kid recently, or were a kid in the last few decades, you’re probably familiar with Eric Carle in some way. Chances are you’ve read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, maybe Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? His style of art and kid-friendly prose is easily recognizable.
For some reason, I don’t remember Eric Carle as part of my childhood at all. My infancy/toddlerhood/early childhood was in the early 1980s, and when I think back to the books I remember, or look at pictures, Carle and his books just don’t show up. I’m not sure I was even familiar with him until college or graduate school, when I would babysit for various families. Without fail, there would be a stack of Carle board books or picture books to read — and I fell in love.
Although all of the board books and picture books were so well done, that darn hungry caterpillar stole my heart, as I’m sure is the case for many other people. Even when I’d get excited about finding a “new” Carle book that I didn’t know about previously, I’d always return to the story of the caterpillar who ate through a bunch of yummy snacks, ate a leaf and felt better again, built a chrysalis (it’s called a cocoon in the book, but — here’s where my inner science nerd comes out — butterflies generally make a chrysalis and moths make cocoons), and emerged as a colorful, beautiful butterfly. There was something so basic about the story, but so good. And the art! All of Carle’s art draws your eye to it; the texture, the colors, the brushstrokes and collages — there is so much to take in, but it’s never overwhelming to me.
When I was pregnant, I bought an assortment of books, stroller/car seat toys, themed clothing, dolls — even my baby shower cake had the iconic caterpillar on it. One of my best friends made a quilt for my son that sits on his bed today, with the caterpillar and the painted dots all over it. When my son had speech therapy via Early Intervention, Brown Bear, Brown Bear was a favorite of his, and was a valuable tool that his therapist used in language building and acquisition. So you could say Carle has a special place in my life — our lives.
But did you know there’s also The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art? It opened in 2002 to ensure that the art form of picture book illustration would be preserved and celebrated. One of the goals of the Museum is to share and encourage the love of picture books. They have educational programs about picture books, encourage visitors of all ages to read them and to create their own art, and encourage picture book art that reflects our diverse world.
Celebrating Carle and his Museum
June 25th would have been Eric Carle’s 93rd birthday. This summer, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art also celebrates its 20th birthday. So what does this mean? A whole summer of Eric Carle goodness! Activities (on site and virtual), exhibitions, and forthcoming books are just some of the things planned. You can look here for a whole schedule of activities spanning the next six months.
It’s summer, and who doesn’t love arts and crafts in the summertime? To help celebrate Carle, the Museum has paired with Brightly to offer some fun printables, crafts, a downloadable birthday activity kit, and activities you or children in your life can do — check those out here. On June 25th, there’s also a live virtual storytime and birthday event with authors Angela Diterlizzi, Alissa Holder & Zulekah Holder-Young, Rafael López, and Grace Lin. Not only will there be storytimes, but a tour of the museum, interactive singing and dancing, and a craft activity! You can register for that here.
If you’re looking to add to your book collection, there are nonfiction board books from The World of Eric Carle: How Does an Egg Hatch?, and How Does a Caterpillar Change? These are a beautiful way to introduce life cycles to young children. For older kids and adults, there’s also a newly-revised edition of The Art of Eric Carle, with new pages of artwork, essays, and much more. There’s also something to look forward to — on February 14th 2023, a new book will be published: Eric Loves Animals: Just Like You, with dozens of unpublished pieces from Carle himself.
Whether you’re a huge Eric Carle fan or not, there’s no denying his impact on children’s literature. His iconic art and beautiful stories can be found far and wide, and continue to be favorites throughout the years. With so many fun activities planned, there’s something in the world of Eric Carle for everyone to enjoy this summer.