Eric Carle, the children’s author and illustrator best known for his book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, has died at the age of 91.
Carle’s family confirmed the news of his death in an announcement posted by Penguin Young Readers. He died on Sunday at his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, with family members by his side.
“Heaven has become more colorful,” wrote Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator of “The Dot”. in tribute on Twitter. Carle, he said, “made his mark, bravely splashing and inspiring those around him to do the same. “
Through books like “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? ” ” Do you want to be my friend? And Head to Toe, Carle introduced universal themes with simple words and bright colors.
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“The unknown often leads to fear,” he once observed. “In my books, I try to counter 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 both fascinating and fun. “
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” published in 1969, was greeted by parents and delighted children with its story of the metamorphosis of a green and red caterpillar into a proudly multicolored butterfly.
Originally conceived as a book about a bookworm – called “A Week with Willi the Worm” – the hero, who eats 26 different foods, has been changed to a caterpillar on the advice of his publisher. It has sold some 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, spawned caterpillars of stuffed animals and turned into a play.
“I remember as a kid I always felt like I would never grow up and be tall, articulate and intelligent,” Carle told The New York Times in 1994. “Caterpillar is a book hope: you too can grow and grow wings. “
Politicians like George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton were known to read the book to children on the campaign trail. The American Academy of Pediatrics sent special copies of the book to more than 17,000 pediatricians, as well as growth charts and parenting materials on healthy eating. Writer and illustrator Ted Dewan called the book one of the pillars of children’s culture. “It almost speaks of the quality of The Beatles. It is irreproachable, ”he said.
Carle has written and / or illustrated over 75 books, sometimes in partnership with Bill Martin Jr. or other authors, but most with Carle working alone. One of his last books was “The Nonsense Show” from 2015, which centered on a parade of flying fish, mice taming cats and circus animals.
“Spending time with Eric Carle was the closest you could do to spending time with Santa. His books and his advocacy for the arts will continue to reverberate over time. But he will be missed in the children’s book community. terribly, ”National Book Award finalist Jarrett J. Krosoczka wrote on Twitter.
Born to German immigrant parents in Syracuse, New York, Carle and his family returned to Germany – then Nazi Germany – when he was 6 years old. Under the Nazis, modern, expressionist and abstract art was prohibited 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 showed his expressionist art, including Franz Marc’s “Blue Horse”.
“I was used to pretty paintings with a mountain in the background. Even though I was shocked, I still carried this day in my heart, ”Carle told NPR in 2011. As an illustrator he said he chose to depict animals in unconventional colors. show his young readers that in art there is no bad color. He thanked Marc in the pages of “The artist who painted a blue horse”.
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His signature illustration technique was achieved by stitching together images mostly from tissue paper that he had painted with different colors and textures. “It sounds cheesy, but I think I connect with the child in me, and I think other people too,” he told The Associated Press in 2003.
His father introduced him to the wonders of living creatures that he would later immortalize in his books. “When I was a little kid, as far back as I can remember, he would take me by the 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 tell me about their lives. It was a very loving relationship. “
The theme of children mastering the world has been addressed in other tales of bugs with “very” big difficulties: “The Very Busy Spider”, “The Very Quiet Cricket”, “The Very Lonely Firefly” and “Friends”. The love of family has been explored in books such as “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me”, 1986; and “Does a kangaroo also have a mother?” »From 2000.
After graduating from a major German art school, he returned to the United States in 1952. He worked as a graphic designer in the New York Times promotion department before moving on to advertising.
It was Martin who spotted Carle’s talents and brought him into the publishing business. Carle was working as an art director for an advertising agency at the time; Martin had just written “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” And needed an illustrator.
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“While waiting for a dentist appointment, I came across an advertisement he had done that featured a Maine lobster,” said Martin, who died in 2004 at the AP in 2003. “Art was so striking that I instantly knew my artist! “
The book, which introduces colors and animals to young readers, came out in 1967 and has become an eternal bestseller. Their other joint works were “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? »From 1991? and 2003 “Panda Bear, Panda Bear, what do you see? “
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In 2002, Carle and his late wife, Barbara Carle, founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Based in Amherst, Mass., The 40,000 square foot nonprofit arts center is a showcase for picture book illustrations from around the world. He has 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.