Goodbye Eric Carle
Eric Carle’s picture books were often about insects. Spiders, lady bugs, crickets and of course, that famous caterpillar, all as colorful and friendly as Carle himself. The Very Hungry Caterpillar came out in 1969 and became one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.
Over the course of his career, Carle illustrated more than 70 books for kids. He didn’t get started on that path until he was nearly 40, but he found great inspiration in his own childhood. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Carle remembered an early life filled with art, light and walking through nature holding his father’s hand.
Eric Carle was beaten by teachers and shot at by soldiers, and his beloved father disappeared into a Russian prisoner-of-war camp for years after being drafted to fight for the Nazis. The man who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar experienced hunger firsthand.
Carle, who first illustrated the 1967 children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by his friend Bill Martin Jr., wanted The Very Hungry Caterpillar to serve as a literary cocoon for children getting ready for kindergarten. As little kids prepare to leave the warmth and safety of home for school, they’re meant to identify with beautiful, soaring butterflies.
“I think it is a book of hope,” Carle said in a commemorative video released by Penguin Random House in 2019.Children need hope. You, little insignificant caterpillar, can grow up into a beautiful butterfly and fly into the world with your talent. Will I ever be able to do that? Yes, you will.”