Children's Authors/Eric Carle

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Biography[edit | edit source]

Becoming an Artist[edit | edit source]

Eric Carle was born in Syracuse, New York in 1929. As a young boy, he loved school and especially enjoyed putting his creativity to work while painting during art class. His parents were German immigrants and right before the start of World War II, his family moved back to Germany; he was just six years old. He did not enjoy school in Germany as much as he did in the United States, but he loved visiting his German relatives' farms and taking long walks in the summer to study nature and its beautiful creations.

Although he was born in New York, Carle spent much of his childhood in Germany.

Carle experienced many trials throughout the course of World War II and its aftermath, but he remained intent on his goal to become an artist. He graduated from high school and eventually studied graphic art at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, in Stuttgart, Germany. Although he enjoyed his time at the art academy, he wanted to return to the United States and pursue an art career there; in 1952, he returned to New York with his art portfolio in hand and just forty dollars in his pocket.[1]

Becoming an Author[edit | edit source]

Once in New York, Carle befriended fellow artist Leo Lionni and also attained a job with The New York Times newspaper as a graphic artist. He eventually moved on to executive jobs in advertising, but felt he was being pulled away from what he loved most - creating art; so he decided to quit his job to be a freelance artist, specializing in pharmaceutical ad illustrations. One day, an author named Bill Martin Jr., who was searching for someone to illustrate his book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, saw one of Carle's ads. Martin was so impressed with Carle's work that he hoped to enlist him as the illustrator. Carle agreed and enjoyed his experience illustrating for Martin, but it was then that Carle realized his great desire to write and illustrate his own books. Carle's first book that he produced entirely on his own was called 1,2,3 to the Zoo, which was followed by one of his most famous and celebrated books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969.

A Unique Style[edit | edit source]

Carle went on to write and illustrate many more children's books; his stories are easily recognized because of his unique and ever-present tissue-collage art style. Because of his life-long love and appreciation for nature, many of his stories’ themes are pulled from that passion and knowledge. Carle has a deep respect for young children; most of whom share his curiosity and fascination with nature. Within his nature-centered, playful, and often humorous plot structures, Carle includes a thoughtful lesson or moral to be learned.[2] [1]

Carle says...[edit | edit source]

"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?

I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. 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." [3] [2]

For the Record[edit | edit source]

Due to his innovative, multi-layered writing and illustrations, Carle has won many awards for his creative stories and contributions to children's literature. He has two adult children, a son and a daughter, and he spends much of his time with his wife, Barbara, in the Florida Keys and North Carolina.

Books of Interest[edit | edit source]

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, 1969[edit | edit source]

Through colorful, stunning illustrations, Carle tells the story of a very hungry caterpillar as it goes through the life cycle and becomes a butterfly. Now considered a classic in children’s literature,

Carle's books often include creatures great and small.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar offers a fun, interactive, and educational experience – all in one book! This story crosses math, science, and health curriculums. Teachers can apply it to introduce counting strategies and/or teach young students days of the week. This text could also be a great introduction to a unit on the life cycle of an insect as well as a springboard for a discussion of proper nutrition and healthy foods. [4]

Pancakes, Pancakes!, 1970[edit | edit source]

Another story with vivid watercolor collage-illustrations, Pancakes, Pancakes follows Jack as he completes all the tasks necessary to make pancakes. Most students are familiar with simply creating pancakes from pancake mix, but this story shows what steps would be necessary to make pancakes from scratch many years ago. Jack and his mother live in a different world than most students who read this text, so teachers can use this story to discuss life in different times, modern conveniences, and technology. Students find that Jack’s task is not an easy or quick one and teachers can also apply Jack’s example to discuss the value of hard work and commitment. [5]

The Mixed-Up Chameleon, 1975[edit | edit source]

With illustrations so colorful and entertaining, Carle shows his readers what happens to a chameleon that spends its time wishing to be other creatures rather than itself. After becoming a small part of all the creatures in the zoo, the chameleon finally realizes life would be so much better and easier if it would just be itself! The Mixed-Up Chameleon is a great vehicle for teachers to discuss with students the fact that there is no need to spend our days wishing we were someone or something else, there is only one of each of us and we should be proud of who we are! [6]

The Grouchy Ladybug, 1977[edit | edit source]

In typical Eric Carle fashion, Carle uses one of nature’s cutest creatures to tell the story of an ornery ladybug that would rather pick fights with others than simply share the aphids on a leaf with a fellow ladybug. Teachers will find this multi-themed book helpful in teaching students about telling time, comparing sizes, and the importance of being kind and considerate. A clock appears on each page and the reader finds that as time passes in the ladybug’s journey, the ladybug meets bigger and bigger creatures. Through amusing dialogue between various animals, the grouchy ladybug doesn’t find a fight, but instead learns an important lesson on being nice to others when he realizes that sharing the aphids isn’t such a bad idea after all. [7]

The Very Lonely Firefly, 1995[edit | edit source]

Many young students will relate to this touching tale of a firefly searching for a place to belong. The lonely firefly follows many different lights in his efforts to find other fireflies, but is disappointed time after time when he realizes those lights aren’t leading him to where he should be. At the end of the story, the firefly finally finds his place with a group of fireflies and isn’t lonely anymore. A

Carle teaches students that a baby kangaroo is called a joey.

great character education lesson tool, The Very Lonely Firely offers unexpected insights as Carle teaches his readers that sometimes it takes time and effort to figure out where we truly belong, but we will all eventually find our “place.” [8]

Does A Kangaroo Have A Mother, Too?, 2000[edit | edit source]

A fantastic read-aloud story, Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?, uses repetition to teach its readers the fact that every creature, great and small, has a mother! An unseen child asks the same question over and over again about various animals and the answer is always, “Yes, a _______ has a mother, just like me and you.” The story ends with the child asking whether animal mothers love their babies and is then given the sweet answer, “Yes! Yes! Of course they do. Animal mothers love their babies, just as yours loves you.” Aside from being a heartwarming story for students to reflect on the significance of mothers, teachers can also use the story’s concluding page to teach students the names of animal babies, their parents, and their groups. For instance, a baby swan is called a cygnet, a fox’s mother is a vixen, and a group of kangaroos is called a troop! [9]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Beneduce, A. (2003). Eric Carle. Horn Book Magazine, July/August, 425-428.
  2. Retrieved on March 27, 2012.
  3. Retrieved on March 27, 2012.
  4. Carle, E. The very hungry caterpillar. (1969). New York, NY: Penguin Group.
  5. Carle, E. Pancakes, pancakes. (1970). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  6. Carle, E. The mixed-up chameleon. (1975). New York, NY: Harper Collins.
  7. Carle, E. The grouchy ladybug. (1977). New York, NY: Harper Collins.
  8. Carle, E. The very lonely firely. (1995). New York, NY: Penguin Books.
  9. Carle, E. Does a kangaroo have a mother too? (2000). New York, NY: Harper Collins.