We lost a literary giant yesterday, Eric Carle passed away at age 91. His life, art, and gift for words inspired many a youngster, including me.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was one of my absolute favorite books to get from the library. The holes in the page were the icing on the (chocolate) cake. I spent a lot of time putting my pinky finger in the hole on one page and very carefully turning to the next to solve the important mystery of how everything lined up. Eric Carle taught me that books were magical.
Another sort of magic from The Very Hungry Caterpillar? I was inspired to try new foods. I liked strawberries, apples, lollipops, and chocolate cake. So did the caterpillar. I distinctly remember being excited to try swiss cheese because the caterpillar ate it. I also learned the valuable lesson to have some salad if I’ve overindulged.
My kids adored Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and the companion Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? Carle did the illustrations, and Bill Martin Jr. did the words. They preferred these books to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We had board book versions of both and the corners were well chewed as if the kids were trying to eat through the pages, but the board book lacked the intriguing finger holes of paper version I got from the library.
My youngest liked to play a game inspired by Brown Bear. He would ask “Mommy, Mommy what do you see?” and I had to answer with something I saw in the room “looking at me.” We played this in the car, in waiting rooms, at home, pretty much anywhere and he would bust my chops if he thought I picked something (say a potato or a painting) out of the sightline of the last object named. At some point, one or the other of us would have to recall all of the items mentioned previously. It was a good mental exercise for both of us.
My oldest liked to look at the art and try to figure out how it was made, noticing little details like how the collage parts lined up. Carle was a truly talented artist, mixing media, color, and form to make the world anew. I was not surprised when I learned one of Carle’s artistic influences was Marc Chagall. I see a similarity in how they blend multiple tones and hues to create a color. Because of copywrite concerns, I won’t plunk the images here, but click on names to see what I mean. In both cases, I linked to images featuring the color blue.
Eric Carle reminds us to find the joy and beauty in the world. Take a moment today to honor him by seeking out wonder and beauty.
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