"The hardest part is developing the idea, and that can take years." -- Eric Carle
Eric Carle (born June 25, 1929) is a children's book author and illustrator who is most famous for his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has been translated into over 47 languages. Since The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published in 1969, Eric Carle has illustrated more than 70 books, many best sellers, most of which he also wrote, and more than 88 million copies of his books have sold around the whole world.
"Let's put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.""One day I think it's the greatest idea ever that I'm working on. The next day I think it's the worst that I've ever worked on - and I swing between that a lot. Some days I'm very happy with what I'm doing, and the next day I am desperate - it's not working out!""That's something I learned in art school. I studied graphic design in Germany, and my professor emphasized the responsibility that designers and illustrators have towards the people they create things for.""They are deceptively simple. I admit that. But for me, all my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them.""We have eyes, and we're looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.""You know, now it's sinking in. It's taken me a long time to realize - and it is sinking in - how important this book is. And I have a certain distance now. I've done it such a long time ago."
Born in Syracuse, New York in 1929 to German emigrants Johanna and Erich Carle, Eric moved back to Germany with his parents in the mid-1930s when he was six years old; his mother, homesick for Germany, took the family back to Stuttgart. He was educated there, and graduated from the prestigious art school, the Akademie der bildenden Künste, in Stuttgart. Eric's father was drafted into the German army during World War II and spent eight years as a prisoner of the Russians. "When he came back, he was a broken man. He was, in Eric Carle's own words in a Guardian interview a "sick man, psychologically, physically devastated." Eric had been sent to the small town of Schwenningen to escape the bombings of Stuttgart. When Eric was 15, the German government conscripted him and other boys of his age to dig trenches on the Siegfried line. Although he does not like to think about it too deeply, his wife, he told a reporter, thinks he still suffers from post-traumatic stress from those days, adding: "You know about the Siegfried line? To dig trenches. And the first day three people were killed a few feet away. Not children -- Russian prisoners or something. 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." Always homesick for America, Eric dreamed of returning one day to the United States, so he moved to New York City in 1952 with only US$45 to his name. Once there, he landed a job as a 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 with the Second Armored Division and appointed the position of mail clerk. After returning from the service, Carle returned to his old job with The New York Times and later became the art director of an advertising agency.
Educator and author Bill Martin Jr., after noticing an illustration of a red lobster Carle had created for an advertisement, asked him to illustrate a story. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was the result of their collaboration, and became a best-seller. This began Carle’s true career; soon he was writing and illustrating his own stories. His first wholly original book was 1,2,3 to the Zoo, followed quickly by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Eric Carle’s art is distinctive and instantly recognizable. His art work is created in collage technique, using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form bright and colorful 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. Carle's readers often use his work as an example and create collages themselves that they often send to Carle; he receives hundreds of letters each week from his young admirers.
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.
“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.” -Eric Carle
Eric Carle has a son and a daughter. He currently divides his time between the Florida Keys and the Hills of North Carolina. For over 20 years, Carle and his second wife, Bobbie Morrison, lived in Northampton, Massachusetts.
With his wife, Eric Carle founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a museum devoted to the art of children's books in Amherst located adjacent to Hampshire College as part of the Hampshire College Cultural Village. The Museum has welcomed over 325,000 visitors since it opened its doors in 2002. Carle received an honorary doctorate from Bates College in 2007.
Google paid tribute to Carle and his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by asking him to design their logo "Google doodle", on their home page on March 20, 2009, celebrating the first day of spring. (Carle also designed "Google doodle" for fall theme for the use in Southern Hemisphere.)
His book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was chosen as the book for Jumpstart's 2009 Read For the Record program on October 8. Jumpstart's [Read For the Record] encourages educators, librarians and parents to try to have as many as possible read the same book and the same day all over the world.
1967, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (illustrator)1968, 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo1969, The Very Hungry Caterpillar1970, Pancakes, Pancakes!1970, The Tiny Seed1970, Tales of the Nimipoo (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 World1972, The Very Long Tail1972, The Secret Birthday Message1972, Walter the Baker1973, Do Bears Have Mothers Too? (illustrator)1973, Have You Seen My Cat?1973, I See a Song, 1973
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 Arthur1975, The Hole in the Dike (illustrator)1975, The Mixed-Up Chameleon1976, Eric Carle’s Storybook, Seven Tales by the Brothers Grimm1977, The Grouchy Ladybug1978, Watch Out! A Giant!1978, Seven Stories by Hans Christian Andersen (sequel to Seven Tales by the Brothers Grimm)1980, Twelve Tales from Aesop1981, The Honeybee and the Robber1982, Otter Nonsense (illustrator)1982, What's for Lunch1983, Chip Has Many Brothers (illustrator)1984, The Very Busy Spider1985, 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 Us1986, 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 Crab1988, The Lamb and the Butterfly (illustrator)
1988, Eric Carle’s Treasury of Classic Stories for Children1989, Animals Animals (illustrator)1990, The Very Quiet Cricket1991, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (illustrator)1991, Dragons Dragons (illustrator)1992, Draw Me a Star1993, Today Is Monday1994, My Apron1995, The Very Lonely Firefly1996, Little Cloud1997, From Head to Toe1997, 19 very short stories from my life1998, Hello, Red Fox1998, A Very Simple How-to Book1999, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle2000, Does A Kangaroo Have A Mother, Too?2000, Dream Snow2002, “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth2003, Where Are You Going? To See My Friend! (with Kazuo Iwamura)2003, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? (illustrator)2004, Mister Seahorse2005, 10 Little Rubber Ducks2006, My Very First Book of Numbers2007, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?2008, The Rabbit and the Turtle2009, Google Logo Design (illustrator)2009, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Pop-Up Edition (40th Anniversary Tribute Book)