Biography of Eric Carle
Eric Carle was born into a German family in Syracuse, New York in 1929 (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29). His father was a natural talent when it came to the pencils and the brush and always wanted to be an artist, instead he became a customs official in Germany before migrating to the United States (Carle 1996, p.13). When his father was in the United States he spray-painted washing machines for a living (Carle 1996, p. 13).
Carle’s mother moved to New York from Germany after exchanging romantic love letters with Carle’s father. When they were married in a Lutheran church, his mother said, Eric was born thirteen months after the wedding (Carle 1996, p.14).
When Carle first started going to school, the blank papers, paint and brushes amazed him. His mother was called to meet with the teacher one day, she thought it was because her son was misbehaving; instead it was because he was good at art (Carle 1996, p. 15).
She believed in encouraging her son with his talent, however at some point there was confusion as to that encouragement to be an artist on his mother’s part (Carle 1996, p. 15).
The love for nature
As Germans, they loved the outdoors and as young as he was, he was brought on camping trips with his father (Carle 1996, p. 14). Carle also shared the love of nature with his father. This love for nature was widely reflected in his art work and stories.
During Adolf Hitler’s regime, the Carle family moved back to Germany when he was six years old (Carle 1996, p. 16). His father continued to influence his love for nature as they would take long walks in the meadows or the woods and he would teach him about the life cycles of small creatures like caterpillars and spiders perhaps (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29). Carle saw that when he wrote and drew about living things, he was honoring his father as well (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29).
Even at kindergarten he was already recognized as young as that with his talent for art, he credited his teacher, Herr Kraus at the German Gymnasium or high school for developing the knowledge he had of art (Carle 1996, p. 63; Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29+). He was had sins in his youth that kept him from being promoted however Carle admired this man’s talent (Carle 1996, p. 63).
He went to study in an art school; the Akademie der Bildenden Kunste in Stuttgart (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). He wanted a career in design when he graduated, that was when he went back to the United States; the land he considered was the place of his happiest childhood memories (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). When he went back to the US, he worked his way up to being an art director for an advertising agency for some years (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+).
The Start of the True Career
In 1967, a children’s book author named Bill Martin, Jr. commissioned Carle to illustrate the story he had written (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). Martin noticed a striking picture of a red lobster that Carle drew for an advertisement and Martin wanted something like that (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+).
The result was the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? This book remains to be a classic favorite of children even after 35 years (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). This signaled a new career for Carle, more than that it signified his true calling (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+).
Soon enough he started writing his own stories and illustrating them in his own books. One of his first works was 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo which was published in 1968, after which was the award-winning classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969 (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29+). This book has sold over seventeen million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages in the world (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29+).
He became an acclaimed as well as a household favorite creator of brilliant and innovative design picture books for very young children (eric-carle.com 2007). Since the publication of the caterpillar book, he had illustrated more than seventy books throughout the years and many were even considered best sellers, he wrote most of the books’ stories as well (eric-carle.com 2007).
Eric Carle has a son and a daughter with his wife Barbara; both of them are grown up. They live and Northampton, Massachusetts and spend their summers in the Berkshire Hills that was nearby because of their lifetime love for nature (eric-carle.com 2007).
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Carle had opened a museum that featured picture book art, an idea he and his wife always dreamed about. It was a place where there was an exploration of visual and verbal literacy offered (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+).
Carle saw picture books as an introduction to literature for young children and saw the importance of giving attention to that area of learning. He saw his museum to provide for the same thing. The museum was going to be the introduction to the experience of going to the museum and experiencing art for the young children (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). Carle got the idea from visiting the Chichiro Art Museum that was also a picture book museum (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). The first museum of picture book art under Eric Clarke was in Europe. Now, there is one opened in Ohio, The Eric Carle Museum.
In this museum, an art studio was located within it. It offered children to interact in the art-making experience. Carle saw the importance of such simple art classes for young children as he started in such a space when he was in kindergarten as well.
Furthermore, Carle persisted that picture book art is a part of the culture of art for most people, a “piece that is added to a whole” (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). He encouraged the United States to be more visual in all visual aspect of art and to have that started as early as with young children (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+).
The Works of Eric Carle
The Very Hunger Caterpillar (1969). The story of a caterpillar started when it popped out of an egg in a very sunny day. In his hunger, he searched for food. Carle wanted his books to be fun and experienced in a unique way, this book had punched holes into the pages of the book to represent the holes by which the caterpillar eats holes through of the food, the way he does on leaves in reality (eric-carle.com 2007). This book also teaches of the different days of the week as each day the caterpillar ate different things (eric-carle.com 2007). Until he was to overweight that he had to spin himself into a cocoon to rest, when he got out, he was a butterfly. It taught of the life cycle of the caterpillar in the most amusing manner.
The Grouchy Lady Bug, (1977). This was a story of a lady bug that always picked fights with everyone he meets even if they are bigger or smaller for no apparent reason. Along the way he would see the difference between being nice with the creatures around it and realized how so much more is gain when someone would have good manners and when someone is pleasant. This one teaches how the children should be pleasant towards people and how it teaches the right attitude when it came to socializing with friends and everyone else.
Aside from giving a lesson of good manners and being positive towards others, it also reflects on how it is not right to pick on someone for no matter what reason. There are also lessons on how to tell time as there are illustrated clocks to report on the ladybug’s day by hour. It also gives the value of sharing and proper interaction with others.
The Mixed-Up Chameleon, (1988). It tells of a story of a small chameleon that was not comfortable about changing colors. However, he could not escape doing so every time he changes into a different surround. He saw the zoo animals where all the animals had their own distinction and envied different character traits about them. He then made himself turn into a combination of all the different parts of the animals that looked mixed up when placed together. When the time he was hungry, he could not eat and wished he was back to his original nature and he does.
Aside from the genius artwork this book had, it also shows the different animals determining characteristics as the chameleon was envying them. This book teaches on a very important lesson on self-image and identity. It teaches how one was created the best way he would be created and that he should not compare themselves with others to think they are inferior. It is a message applicable to any age, but it is always good to impart that with little children.
The Very Quiet Cricket, (1990). It is a story of a young cricket that could not make a sound by rubbing his wings together like the way other crickets do. He tried so hard to do it by going to other insects in order to get them to help with this problem.
Until he met this cricket and finally he was able to make the sound. It has a social lesson to it of how he could turn to those like him first to learn what he needs to learn, it may symbolize family or friendships in finding something in common and help each other through it. This book features a chip that would reproduce the real sound of a cricket’s song that would be a delight to its young readers.
The Very Busy Spider (1984). This book is presented in a very innovative way with raised printing that would enable the reader to touch and experience different textures that helps in understanding and enjoying the story. In this tale, different animals tried to prevent the spider from spinning her web. They try to invite her to play and do other things. However, the spider persisted until it came to the point wherein she has finished the web and it was something of great beauty and usefulness. She even caught a fly in her web for her to eat.
Carle also writes stories in repetition that could get the toddlers to say things over and over again for them to master. This book also teaches of the animals and their animal sounds. There is also a lesson learned on perseverance and concentration. When someone works hard enough and focuses on single thing until it is done, the rewards are worth it.
Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, (1991). To present the totality of Carle’s work, it is important to mention the works that were not about insects and animals. However, this book does not divert from providing educational concepts.
The story revolves around the waxing and waning of the moon. A girl named Monica asked her father to bring her the moon so that she can play with it. Her father says it was too big for him to carry so he waits until it gets smaller, as the moon does. When Monica has it, it got smaller in her hands too. But the moon did not entirely disappear as a crescent shaped moon appeared once again in the sky.
Draw Me a Star, (1998). It can actually be perceived like a religious’ tale but was smart and straightforward still. A young boy was asked to draw a star for someone. The star requests the boy to draw him a sun while the sun wanted a tree. Throughout that life, the artist creates images that filled the world with so much beauty. In the end, the old artist, who was once a boy, asks him to draw another star and that was where the story ended. It is a story that has a wider audience because of the appeal of the illustration and the simplicity yet the profoundness of the text.
Dream Snow, (2000). It is a Christmas story that was enhanced by visual and musical treats. There was this farmer with a long white beard that lived a life of simplicity with some animals, they had numerical names; One, Two, Three, Four Five. The readers would not know that early who those animals were. However, in a dream the man would say it was Christmas and there were no snow still until it snowed and the animals were concealed by the snow. It was presented in such a way that a plastic cover with snow illustrations covered the animals and the readers can peak under it to know which animal was One and so on.
When the farmer woke up, he was in a snow-covered world and he went outside in a Santa-like outfit, he gave the animals’ presents and the tree was decorated. The book also had tunes that can be played at the press of the button. It was a perfect Christmas reading for very young children. It was meant to be simple and festive.
The Art of Eric Carle (1996). This book serves as an autobiography of Carle’s life as an artist. He had been one of the greatest art icons in children books and this was the story of how he came to be the artist that the world know and love. The book was as colorful and inviting as his children books. There were dabs of color everywhere and showed sketches and personal reflections of his artistic style.
Most of the themes produced in his books are his love for nature that was embedded in him by his heritage and family even when he was a young boy (eric-carle.com 2007). He had extensive knowledge of nature and was able to share this with small children who are amused by such themes in a way that they are captivated into learning.
They are offered simple educational concepts that are presented in funny and witty stories that also offer valuable morals (eric-carle.com 2007). He vies on the feelings and inquisitiveness of his readers (eric-carle.com 2007). Situations that happen to these little creatures are amusing and allows for creativity and intellectual growth for the children as it is accompanied by beautiful artwork (eric-carle.com 2007).
Similarities and Differences of Carle as a Writer and Illustrator
When Carle wrote, he wanted to bridge the gap that the home and the school have on children (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). He wanted to ease the transition stage for them by showing that learning was a fun and fascination thing (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). As a writer, he introduced marine biology with books such as House for Hermit Crab; there was also a story of how the cricket tracks his mate with The Very Quiet Cricket (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+). There was Hello Red Fox that taught lessons about complementary colors (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, pp. 29+).
The way he wrote was funny and smart that really addressed the different ways wherein children can learn and be amused at the same time, whether it involved good moral values or introduction to educational concepts.
His illustrations are very distinctive that the readers would easily recognize a Carle art. His technique is created in collage, he used hand-painted paper that he cuts and layers to form bright and cheerful images (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 2003, p. 29).
Most of his books have added dimension in such a way that there are twinkling lights as in The Very Lonely Firefly or the lifelike sound of a cricket’s song in The Very Quiet Cricket (Eric-Carle.com). He wanted an approach that would produce toys that can be read and books that can be touched (Eric-Carle.com).
The medium and the message, the classic childlike look made the Eric Carle Books a delight. His books secret lies in his intuitive understanding of the children, as well as his respect for his young readers as they are given the sense that Carle is a writer who just wanted to share with them his cherished thoughts, emotions and memories from childhood (Eric-Carle.com).
Carle, E. (1981). The very hungry caterpillar. New York: Philomel.
Carle, E. (1988). The mixed-up chameleon. New York: HarperTrophy.
Carle, E. (1996). The art of Eric Carle. New York: Philomel.
Carle, E. (2000). Dream snow. New York: Philomel.
Carle, E. (1991). Papa, please get the moon for me. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; Min edition.
Carle, E. (1998). Draw me a star. USA: Putnam Juvenile.
“Eric Carle.” (2007). Retrieved on October 7, 2007, from www.eric-carle.com.
Mackenzie, G. and Mackenzie R. (2003). A bridge to learning: The life and work of Eric Carle. School Arts, 102, 8, pp. 29+.