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Monday, September 5, 2011

Spotlight on Eric Carle: Illustrator and Author

Ben's beloved Hungry Caterpillar toy

Eric Carle's stories and illustrations are well-loved at our house.  Of course, our family is not unusual in that regard; millions of copies of Carle's books have been sold all over the world! 

Carle's career began when author Bill Martin, Jr. spotted an advertising graphic he'd made, then asked him if he would illustrate the picture book Martin had written, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967).  Carle agreed.  Soon afterwards, he started writing and illustrating his own best-selling stories. 

Carle has illustrated over 70 books so far.  He uses a collage technique for his artwork -- he paints papers, then cuts and layers them to create his colorful, magical pictures. His beautifully written stories appeal to all ages -- especially children, who can relate to  Carle's love of nature.

Below are just a few of Carle's creations.  (Note: I often share photos of books that we've checked out from the library.  In this case, I relied entirely on our collection of books here at home -- I told you we are big fans!  We even own 3 others not shown here, Do You Want to Be My Friend? (1971), A House for Hermit Crab (1987) and Animals, Animals (1989).  Apparently, they are camera shy because I couldn't find them anywhere on the day I took these pictures!)

1, 2, 3 to the Zoo, 1968... A counting book that uses illustrations without words to tell the story of animals aboard a train, headed to the zoo.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, 1969... Carle's best-known work, this book alone has sold over 33 million copies.  We have read it so often at our house that we are currently on our second board book copy -- the first one fell to pieces after many years of love and use.  This sweet, humorous story teaches children about the life cycle of a caterpillar, along with counting and the days of the week.  It is my favorite of all of Carle's work so far.

The Tiny Seed, 1970... The tiny seed is blown by the wind to a new place.  When it lands, it begins to grow... and grow... and grow -- into a giant sunflower.  Finally, the flower releases even more tiny seeds into the wind, to begin all over again.

Rooster's Off to See the World, 1972... Rooster decides to leave the farm and see the world.  A counting book, he meets others along the way who join him, but then later decide the journey's not what they expected, and return home.  At last, Rooster decides he's seen enough of the world and heads home himself, eager for a good meal and his own perch.

Have You Seen My Cat?, 1973... A boy searches for his pet cat, encountering all kinds of other cats, big and small, along the way.

The Grouchy Ladybug, 1977... Who knew a ladybug could be so grouchy?  Challenging everyone he meets to a fight (and then flying away before actually fighting), this ladybug eventually meets his match, learning some manners in the process.  This book also uses pictures of clocks to teach a little about time.

The Honeybee and the Robber, 1981... This book uses pop-ups and movable pieces to tell the story of a honeybee, determined to save its hive from an intruder.

The Very Busy Spider, 1984... Another favorite of mine, this story tells about various farm animals and one industrious spider.  The book uses raised printing on the spider's web, for children to touch.

Eric Carle's Treasury of Classic Stories for Children, 1988...  This book retells 22 well-known folktales, fables, and fairy tales.  While most of Carle's stories are usually read to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, this book will appeal more to older children, who can sit through longer stories or read them on their own.

The Very Quiet Cricket, 1990... This is another favorite of mine.  The very quiet cricket wants to say "hello" to all the other insects who greet him, but he is unable to make a sound.  At last, the cricket meets a female cricket.  Through the use of a microchip embedded in the book, when children flip to the last page, the cricket's beautiful song is finally loud enough to be heard!

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, written by Bill Martin, Jr., 1991... A fun book about animal noises heard at the zoo.

The Very Lonely Firefly, 1995... The very lonely firefly is looking for others of his kind.  He encounters many different kinds of lights before finally discovering a field full of friends.  Through the use of tiny lights and a replaceable battery, the fireflies at the end are truly able to shine!

Little Cloud, 1996...  Little Cloud enjoys forming all different kinds of shapes in the sky.  Eventually, though, he gathers with other clouds and helps them to do their job, raining on the earth below.

From Head to Toe, 1997...  "I am a penguin and I turn my head.  Can you do it?"  "I can do it!"  This book teaches young children about body parts, encouraging them to copy the movements of various animals.  I'm pretty sure this book has elicited giggles from my kids every time I've read it to them and we've all mimicked the animals inside.

10 Little Rubber Ducks, 2005... Carle was inspired to write this book after reading a newspaper account of a shipment of rubber ducks that fell overboard, off of a container ship.  Carle's ducks scatter in different directions, each with its own adventure.  A microchip and button at the end allow the reader to hear the squeak of the tenth duck.

In addition to the books above, we also own "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories" video, which came out in 1995.  (It is now available on DVD, as well.)  The four other stories included are Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me (1986), The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed Up Chameleon (1975), and I See a Song (1973). 

What a delight to watch Carle's illustrations come to life, complete with movement, sound, and song!  I could never count the many times we've watched this over the years -- Ben, now almost six, still requests it at least once a month!

Are you an Eric Carle fan, too?  If so, which of his books are your favorites?

For more about Carle and his amazing creations, please check out The Official Eric Carle Web Site.  Also, don't forget to check out his work in libraries and bookstores!

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