Discover Seven Interesting Facts About the Award-Winning Creator of The Very Busy Spider
by Alexie Basil
Eric Carle seems to know many bugs who have very intense emotions—from a very busy spider and a very hungry caterpillar to a very quiet cricket and a very lonely firefly. But most of all, Eric knows what delights his millions of readers all over the globe!
To celebrate Eric’s incredible contributions to the world of children’s literature, we collected seven fun facts about his background and career for you to enjoy with your class.
1. Even as a kid, Eric loved making art!
Eric was born in Syracuse, New York, and then moved to Stuttgart, Germany, when he was six years old. No matter where he was, Eric loved creating art:
“Ever since I was very young, as far back as I can remember, I have loved making pictures. I knew even as a child that when I grew up, I would be an artist of some kind. The lovely feeling of my pencil touching paper, a crayon making a star shape in my sketchbook, or my brush dipping into bright and colorful paints—these things affect me as joyfully today as they did all those years ago.” —Eric Carle
2. Eric started his creative career as a graphic designer in New York City.
When Eric first moved from Germany to New York City, he only had $40 in his pocket!
He landed a job as a graphic designer at the New York Times and soon began to make a name for himself through his original, stand-out artwork.
“My own style grew out of my work as a graphic designer. I try to express the essence of my stories and ideals very clearly, using simple shapes, often in bright colors against a white background. You might almost think of my illustrations, and especially the cover art, as little posters.” —Eric Carle
3. His work in advertising attracted the attention of a children’s book author…and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? came to life!
“In the mid-1960s, Bill Martin Jr. saw a display of a red lobster I had designed and asked me to illustrate Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? What an inspirational book! The big leaves, bright colors, and thick brushes of my former school came to mind, and this opportunity changed my life.” —Eric Carle
4. While Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? might have been the spark for Eric’s career, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was a real showstopper!
Ever since it was published in 1969, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold the equivalent of 1.8 copies a minute. That’s more than 50 million copies!
Today, Eric has more than 145 million copies of his books in print in more than 66 languages.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar story is about hope. You, like the little caterpillar, will grow up, unfold your wings, and fly into the future.” —Eric Carle
5. Today, you can visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
The mission of the Carle is to “inspire a love of art and reading through picture books.”
Inside, you’ll find not only original artwork by Eric but also more than 12,000 objects, 8,500 permanent-collection illustrations, three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, a library filled with picture books and scholarly materials, and educational programs!
Even if you can’t go in person, you can still enjoy the art online at: carlemuseum.org
“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life—music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” —Eric Carle
6. Even at 91 years old, Eric is still publishing at least one book a year.
Every single year, Eric releases at least one brand-new book! In 2020, he released two: Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? / Oso bebé, oso bebé, ¿qué ves ahí? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? / Oso polar, oso polar, ¿qué es ese ruido?, both of which are bilingual board books.
Thanks to Eric’s prolific pace, he has worked on more than 70 books since his first in 1965!
“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.” —Eric Carle
7. Eric Carle writes to help kids feel more at ease with the home-to-school transition.
On his personal website, Eric explains:
“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?…
“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 is one of the world’s foremost creators of children’s books.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar has become a favorite the world over. First published in 1969, over 50 million copies of this beloved book have been sold, and it has been translated into 70 languages. Eric has illustrated more than 70 books, many bestsellers, most of which he wrote.
Eric has been honored many times for his work, receiving the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association and the NEA Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, among many other national and international awards.
In 2002, Eric and his late wife, Barbara, cofounded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. Eric has two grown children. He lives in the Florida Keys.
To learn about Eric Carle, visit eric-carle.com.
To learn about the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, visit carlemuseum.org.
Photo by Jim Gipe