Monday, September 03, 2012

My Favourite Children's Author: Eric Carle

As parents, we all read books to our children. With an endless trove of books to choose from, and so many wonderful authors, there is bound to be some authors that we as parents love and share with our children.

It is for this reason that the My Favourite Children's Author Guest Post series was created. For the next two months, you will discover some of my fellow SMB bloggers' favourite authors, as well as related activities that they have done with their children.

First, I will share with you my favourite children's author. This gentleman is well loved for his beautiful and innovative picture books for very young children, with many titles inspired by his love for nature, a love which is equally appealing to his young audience too. Subjects of his tales include a hungry caterpillar, a grouchy ladybug, a brown bear and even a busy little spider. Guessed who he is? Yes, it's none other than the talented Eric Carle.
Born in Syracase, New York in 1929, Carle grew up in Germany and was a graduate of the prestigious art school, the Akademie der bildenden Kunste in Stuttgart. He returned to America in 1952 and found work as a graphic designer with The New York Times.

One of Carle's creations for an advertisement while he was art director at an advertising agency caught the attention of Bill Martin Jr, a respected educator and author. Thanks to this picture of a red lobster, Bill Martin and Carle collaborated on the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?, with Carle doing the illustrations. It is still a favourite with children everywhere today.

And the rest is history. Soon, Carle started writing his own stories too. His first wholly original book was 1,2,3 to the Zoo, followed soon by the celebrated classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Published in 1969, this book has been translated into more than 50 languages and sold over 33 million copies.

An illustrator of more than seventy books, most of which he also wrote, Carle's art is iconic and instantly recognisable. In fact, he credits fellow author Leo Lionni as an inspiration for his work. Indeed, the similarities between the two artists are extremely striking, with pictures inspired by animals, nature and their own childhood experiences. And all because of a chance meeting in 1952.

Besides the collage technique using hand-painted papers, which Carle cuts and layers to form bright and cheerful images, many of his books also have added features such as die-cut pages, even holes in the pages like in The Hungry Caterpillar. All these are aimed at giving the books a playful quality, something that can be touched and experienced, not just read.

More than just brilliant illustrations that are captivating, distinctive and instantly recognisable, Carle's stories usually have learning points to tell young readers about the world around them. And this is what I really like about his books. Like the tales by Leo Lionni, Carle's stories always have morales within the plot. Such as the benefits of eating greens in The Hungry Caterpillar, or the importance of being nice and polite in The Grouchy Ladybug, or the journey of self discovery in The Foolish Tortoise.

Eric Carle's books are indeed timeless. No matter what age a child is, his stories are easily understandable, even if the child just looks at the pictures. That's the beauty of the books' simplicity.

Becky has been enjoying his books since she was 10 months old, and today, at two and a half years old, she is still enjoying them. Though now she is able to appreciate the stories even more, and have also attended a recent puppet show based on his stories The Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear Brown Bear and Papa Please Get The Moon For Me. It was a real joy for her to see the story being brought to life.

We have almost 15 Eric Carle books and here are some of Becky's favourite titles.

We even have two of the titles in Chinese.

Becky loves getting her hands active, so we like to do activities based on his books. These two, especially, I think she enjoyed herself doing, since Ten Rubber Ducks and The Hungry Caterpillar are at the top of her favourite list.

They are really easy to do.

For Ten Rubber Ducks, I got Becky to paint the background blue to resemble the sea, then I teared bits of yellow and orange paper for her to crumble and paste to make the duck. It is a great motor skills exercise too!

For The Hungry Caterpillar, I cut out circles for Becky to paste together to make a caterpillar, after which I drew in the background, with some help from her. It was also an exercise on shapes.

We also used poms poms to make a caterpillar.

And if you happen to be in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States, visit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Founded by Eric and Barbara Carle in November 2002, the museum aims to inspire a love of art and reading in young children through picture books, and owns more than 10,000 picture book illustrations.

So there, my favourite children's author. If you have not had a chance to read his books, I say, get your hands on them! His books are such a joy to read, even grown ups will enjoy immersing into Eric Carle's wonderful whimsical world!


  1. Very insightful read about the world of Eric Carle :) Hope Little Chuck will enjoy reading them next time!

    1. Thanks.. I'm sure he will love Eric Carle. My girl wasn't that receptive at first.. but I kept reading to her, and soon, she grew to love his books too. :)

  2. My 6yr old still cant bear to part with his Eric Carle's books that were for younger kids :)

    1. Heheh... I still love reading his books too, and I'm an adult! ;)

  3. One of our favorites too! We just love his art and the colours!

    1. He's so amazing isn't he? Would be great to visit the museum one of these days too. :)


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