Eric Carle: author who has delighted millions of people with A Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle, the writer and illustrator who has delighted millions of young people with The hungry caterpillar and other classic picture books that captured the tumultuous colors and imaginative escapades he dreamed of as a boy, has passed away at the age of 91.
Simply told and brilliantly illustrated, Carle’s books have been storytime staples for decades. Generations of young readers have been delighted by The hungry caterpillar (1969) and its voracious protagonist, one of the most beloved characters since Peter Rabbit. On the occasion of the book’s 40th anniversary, News week magazine noted that he had eclipsed good night moon and The cat in the hat in popularity.
Many boys and girls grew up and shared the book, maybe even the same copy, with their own children, teaching them to read or lulling them to sleep with his words: “In the light of the moon a little egg was laying. on a leaf. One Sunday morning the hot sun rose and – pop! – from the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.
Over the course of a week, and in a way conducive to learning numbers and days, the caterpillar consumes an apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, five oranges and a series of delicacies including a chocolate cake, a pickle and a slice of Swiss cheese.
After the soothing meal of a green leaf, the satiated and no longer tiny caterpillar retreats into a cocoon before emerging like a magnificent butterfly. In Carle’s last illustration, a panorama spread over two pages, the light seems to shine through the wings of the creature as through the stained glass windows of a European cathedral.
Carle’s works – over 70 in all, including The Grumpy Ladybug, The chameleon mixed up,The very busy spider and Does a kangaroo also have a mother? – sold more than 170 million copies in several dozen languages.
His signature collage illustrations, which he created by layering hand-painted tissue paper, did not need translation. Neither did his timeless themes: the joys of discovering a world filled with beauty, despite the darkness he had intimately known.
The son of German immigrants, Carle spent his early years in the United States, but his mother’s homesickness brought the family back to Stuttgart in the mid-1930s, when the Nazi regime sent most of the transatlantic movements to the United States. opposite direction. During World War II, he remembers hiding for hours in a cellar as bombs fell around them. Once, he said, he was wading in a river when a gunner fired at him from a plane. The shooter missed.
In his teens, Carle joined the forced laborers by building trenches along the Siegfried defensive line. His father, who had been drafted into the German army, was imprisoned for years by the Soviets.
“During the war there were no colors,” Carle told NPR. “Everything was gray and brown… The houses were camouflaged with grays and greens and browns-greens and grays-greens or browns-greens.
Decades later, Carle’s work was instantly recognizable for its palette – the shimmering silvery white of the moon, the scorching yellow-orange of the sun, the lush green of a leaf. And yet, he said, “I’m frustrated that I can’t be more colorful than I am.”
His style seems to be influenced by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and other modern painters who are secretly introduced to him by an art teacher in Germany. Nazi propagandists called modern art “degenerate,” and the professor warned Carle not to talk about what he saw but to remember it.
In 1952, he returned to the United States and pursued an advertising career in New York. He made his debut as a children’s illustrator with the publication in 1967 of Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? The author of the book, Bill Martin Jr, had asked for Carle’s collaboration after seeing his collage of a lobster in an advertisement.
Brown bear, with Martin’s soothing and repetitive text about a menagerie of animals discovering each other’s colors, remains a mainstay of children’s shelves today. Its publication introduced Carle to the pleasures of creative writing for young people.
“I didn’t clearly know it at the time, but my life was starting to take its true course,” he observed in an essay. “The long, dark period of my childhood in wartime Germany, the sorely imposed discipline of my school years there, the conscientious work done at my jobs in advertising – all of this eventually lost their rigid hold on me. . The child in me – who had been so suddenly and brutally uprooted and repressed – was beginning to come to life happily.
Carle created a counting book, 1, 2, 3 at the Zoo, before the publication of The hungry caterpillar. Over time, readers have been irresistibly drawn to its luminescent colors and playful nibble holes punched into the pages. The book also won praise for its understated literary sophistication.
“When the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it’s a happy moment, but there’s also a sheer,” author Emma Brockes wrote in The Guardian. “How many books for children under five have a subtext?” “
It was noted that the caterpillar’s binge eating seemed to be reminiscent of consumption that could follow years of wartime starvation. According to another reading, the story is a Christian allegory, an interpretation that may be lost on young people. The message of hope of history was not lost on them.
“You, insignificant and ugly little thing, you can become [a] big and beautiful butterfly, “said Carle, paraphrasing her work,” and fly into the world. “
Eric Carle was born on June 25, 1929 in New York. His father, who had artistic inclinations and found work in the spray washing machines in the United States, instilled in him a love of nature which then infused his son’s books.
“We took long walks together in the countryside, and he peeled the bark from the trees to show me what was below, lifted rocks to reveal the bugs,” Carle observed in the post. Books for dungeons. “As a result, I have an unwavering love and affection for small, insignificant animals.”
He was six when the family relocated to Germany. He was evacuated to the countryside as World War II escalated and was 18 when his father returned from the Soviet camp with a weight of 85 pounds.
“To this day,” Carle said The independent, “I can hardly enjoy a good meal because of thinking about my dad.”
Carle trained in art at an academy in Stuttgart before returning to the United States. Working in advertising, he told the Chicago Tribune, he “had the Brooks Brothers suits and the briefcase” and “took the 8:02 am every morning.” But he didn’t find satisfaction until he was presented with the text of a children’s book about a brown bear meeting a red bird meeting a yellow duck meeting a blue horse …
Working with Bill Martin Jr, Carle later illustrated Brown bear suites which included Polar bear, polar bear, what do you hear? and other urine explorations of the senses.
Carle’s longtime editor Ann Beneduce has made a vital contribution to the creation of her most famous work. He planned to write a picture book titled A week with Willi Worm until Beneduce observes that a caterpillar-turned-butterfly might have greater emotional resonance than a worm prone to overeating.
Carle is survived by her two children and a sister.
Eric Carle, writer, designer and illustrator, born June 25, 1929, died May 23, 2021
The Washington Post