Eric Carle, author of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' and 'The Very Busy Spider', dies at 91

Eric Carle, author and illustrator of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' and many other beloved classics, passed away on May 23 at the age of 91

                            Eric Carle, author of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' and 'The Very Busy Spider', dies at 91
Eric Carle, author of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' dies at 91 (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Jumpstart)

Legendary American designer, illustrator and author of children’s books, Eric Carle, 91, breathed his last on May 23. He was noted for his picture book, 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' which has been translated into more than 66 languages and sold more than 50 million copies.

Carle was the author of children’s classics such as 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar, ' 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?' and 'The Very Busy Spider, ' which were widely loved across generations. In his career, he created more than 70 books for kids. Carle died on Sunday, May 23, at his summer studio in Northampton, Mass. His son, Rolf, informed that the cause of his death was kidney failure. The obituary informing of Carle's death on his website read, “In the light of the moon, holding on to a good star, a painter of rainbows, is now traveling across the night sky.”




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Carle's career took off when he was in his 30s. In an interview with the LA Times in 1995, Carle had said, "I had a lot of feelings, philosophical thoughts — at the age of 6. The only way I got older and wiser was that I got better trained. But that brain and soul were at their peak." Carle's website gives a deep understanding of his books for children. "The secret of Eric Carle’s books’ appeal lies in his intuitive understanding of and respect for children, who sense in him instinctively someone who shares their most cherished thoughts and emotions. The themes of Eric Carle’s stories are usually drawn from his extensive knowledge and love of nature—an interest shared by most small children, " it said.

Eric Carle (Eric Carle website)

The celebrated author was awarded the prestigious Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (now called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award) in 2003, from the American Library Association. It is an organization that recognizes authors and illustrators whose books have created a significant contribution to children’s literature. 

'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', published in 1969, had as its story the metamorphosis of a green and red caterpillar with a touch of blue and brown to a proudly multi-colored butterfly.
Originally conceived as a book about a bookworm – called A Week with Willi the Worm – the hero, who eats through 26 different foods, was changed to a caterpillar on the advice of his editor. It has sold 40m copies and been translated into 60 languages, spawned stuffed animal caterpillars and has been turned into a stage play.

Politicians like George W Bush and Hillary Clinton were known to read the book to children on the campaign trail. 

Carle wrote and/or illustrated more than 75 books, sometimes partnering with Bill Martin Jr or other authors, but most with Carle working alone. One of his last books was 2015’s The Nonsense Show, which centered on a parade of flying fish, cat-taming mice and circus animals.

Eric Carle's early life

Carle was born to German immigrants in Syracuse, NY on June 25, 1929. While his mother, Johanna (Öelschlager) Carle, had a family business, and his father, Erich Carle, worked in a factory spray-painting washing machines.

“When I was a small boy, my father would take me on walks across meadows and through woods,” Carle noted on his website. “He would lift a stone or peel back the bark of a tree and show me the living things that scurried about. He’d tell me about the life cycles of this or that small creature, and then he would carefully put the little creature back into its home.”

“I think in my books I honor my father by writing about small living things, and in a way I recapture those happy times, " he added.

In 2002, Carle, along with his late wife, Barbara founded the 'Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art'. It is a nonprofit organization in Amherst, Massachusetts, that seeks to “inspire a love of art and reading through picture books.” The unique museum collects, displays and celebrates picture books from around the world.

He received lifetime achievement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Library Association. He is survived by a son and a daughter.

Social media pays tribute

"His books were my childhood and now they’re forming my daughter’s childhood too. He will be missed. He impacted so many kids with his books,' wrote one. Another reader of his works wrote: "Brought so much joy to so many families through books, what a gift to us all. RIP." Rembering his contribution to many childhoods, a social media user tweeted: "His books were MY favorite as a child...then my kids’ favorites, and then my grandkids’ favorites.  Rest In Peace Sir! #EricCarle." Another simply stated: "Rest in peace. I read his books all the time as a kid. Such a unique art style."









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