Eric Carle's Creatures

CATERPILLARS. Butterflies. Spiders. Crickets. Honeybees. Do those insects make you think about being outside, maybe walking in an open field or in shady woods? That's exactly what author and illustrator Eric Carle would expect you to think about the "buggy" characters in his bright and colorful books. And here's why:

Mr. Carle grew up in America until he was six years old. Then he and his parents moved to Germany. He experienced some very sad times there because World War II started shortly after he arrived. But in both countries, one of his favorite activities was taking nature walks with his father. Hand in hand, the elder Mr. Carle and little Eric explored leaves and bark, salamanders and lizards, ant hills and fox dens.

Recalling walks with Dad

"My father was not the type of man who would climb Mt. Everest," Eric Carle told me recently. "He was interested in little things, little details, little snippets. He made small observations. Maybe we'd sit someplace, and he'd see a bird fly to its nest." Years later, these childhood memories were simply too wonderful to keep to himself. So for the past 30 years, Eric Carle has been giving little bits of those happy times to all of us through his books.

You would love the place where Carle illustrates his books. He works on the upper floors of what was once an Army-Navy surplus store in the quaint town of Northampton in western Massachusetts. The big white rooms have high ceilings, arched windows, skylights, and wooden floors - the kind that would be fun to slide on in your stocking feet. Carle probably wouldn't mind; he thinks a lot like a kid.

Many of his books are a little like toys. Do you remember the munched-out holes in "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," the spider web you can feel in "The Very Busy Spider," or the chirping sound in "The Very Quiet Cricket"?

Careful, Mr. Carle!

When working in his studio, Carle often turns on his CD player and pops in a classical piece of music, maybe Mozart, before starting to paint. He decorates sheets of white tissue paper with bright acrylic colors until you'd never know they were originally white. Instead, the papers become beautiful patterns of color, swirls, and squiggles. Then he uses a razor blade - be careful, Mr. Carle! - to cut the paper into shapes for the collage pictures in his books. A collage (ko-LAHJ) is a piece of artwork made by pasting together cut-up pieces of paper, fabric, or other materials. It can take him two years - or just a week - to finish a book.

After working so much with colors, what is Carle's favorite color? He doesn't have one! "I love them all," he says, "and how they work together."

Carle jokes about retiring, but I don't think that will ever happen. He says he dreams of being the head chef in a fancy restaurant. "I want to wear a white hat, give orders, and taste stuff all the time," he says with a laugh. He admits he probably wouldn't be a very good chef because he's "not a very good cook." But he does make pancakes and French toast. Yum!

When Carle was growing up, he read Mickey Mouse and Flash Gordon comics, but you probably read Carle's books. Right now, his own favorite of his books is "From Head to Toe." Which one is your favorite?

Why not write Eric Carle and tell him what you think about his books or what you like about them? He says he answers all his mail, even though he gets more than 500 letters a month.

You can write him at:

P.O. Box 485

Northampton, MA 01060

Or check out his Web site at:

Carle's Books

1, 2, 3 to the Zoo

Philomel, 1968

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Philomel, 1969

Pancakes, Pancakes!

Philomel, 1970

The Tiny Seed

Simon & Schuster, 1970

Do You Want to Be My Friend?

Philomel, 1971

Rooster's Off to See the WorlD

Simon & Schuster, 1972

The Secret Birthday Message

HarperCollins, 1972

Walter the Baker

Simon & Schuster, 1972

Have You Seen My Cat?

Philomel, 1973

I See a Song

Scholastic, 1973

My Very First Book OF COLORS



MY very first book of words

HarperCollins, 1974

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

HarperCollins, 1975

The Grouchy Ladybug

HarperCollins, 1977

The Honeybee and the Robber

Philomel, 1981

The Very Busy Spider

Philomel, 1984

Papa, Please Get the Moon

for Me

Simon & Schuster, 1986

A House for Hermit Crab

Simon & Schuster, 1987

Eric Carle's Treasury of

Classic Stories for Children

Orchard, 1988

The Very Quiet Cricket

Philomel, 1990

Draw Me a Star

Philomel, 1992

Today Is Monday

Philomel, 1993

My Apron

Philomel, 1994

The Very Lonely Firefly

Philomel, 1995

Little Cloud

Philomel, 1996

The Art of Eric Carle

(For adult readers) Philomel, 1996

From Head to Toe

HarperCollins, 1997

Flora and Tiger: 19 very short

stories from my life

(For older children) Philomel, 1997

About Carle's Art

Eric Carle's love of color and vibrant collage art seems completely spontaneous. In fact, he is a trained graphic artist. His talent was recognized and nurtured by his first-grade teacher in Syracuse, N.Y. Later, as a teenager in Germany, he studied under the highly respected Ernst Schneidler at the Akademie der bildenden Knste in Stuttgart. After graduation, Mr. Carle worked as a graphic designer in Germany and then in the United States. Fortunately for us, author Bill Martin Jr. asked Carle, in the late 1960s, to illustrate his manuscript "Brown Bear, Brown Bear; What Do You See?" Eric Carle did, in his trademark collage style. And, as they say, the rest is history.

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