"The hardest part is developing the idea, and that can take years."
Eric Carle is an American designer, illustrator, and writer of children’s books. He is most famous for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a picture book with few words that has been translated into more than 62 languages and sold more than 44 million copies. Since it was published in 1969 he has illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, and more than 138 million copies of his books have been sold around the world. He won the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his career contribution to American children’s literature in 2003.
For his contribution as a children’s illustrator Carle was U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010.
Writing and illustrating career
Educator and author Bill Martin, Jr. first noticed the illustration of a red lobster Carle had created for an advertisement and asked him to collaborate on a picture book.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 1967 and became a best-seller. This began Carle’s true career; soon he was writing and illustrating his own stories. His first books as both author and illustrator were 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969).
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.
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.
In his own words:
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.