Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Memories

From my childhood in Germany, I remember the ADVENT KALENDER. From December 1 to Christmas Eve day each number on the calendar had a little door (paper flap) and each day you would open one of the doors to a picture of the season: snowfall, Christmas ornaments, Angels, Stars, Candles, Cookies and so forth.

On Christmas Eve, we all (kids, parents, grandparents, uncles & aunts) gathered ‘round the WEIHNACHTSBAUM (Christmas Tree), exchanged gifts, wished each other happiness and sang LIEDER (songs) such as OH TANNENBAUM or HEILIGENACHT (Holy Night). One of my grandfathers played the mouth harmonica for background music. I can still smell it just thinking about it: apples and chestnuts roasting on the stove.

Peace to all,
Eric Carle

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dream Snow

I created my book Dream Snow after a two year “sabbatical” from making picture books. During this time away, I created abstract art out of my painted tissue papers. I also used other materials such as silk fabric, plate glass, aluminum foil, and plastic sheathing. When I started making books again, I created Dream Snow, the story of a farmer and his animals, and a celebration of Christmas. You might have noticed that instead of a white background the animals in this book are set in front of bright colorful swatches of painted tissue papers as background.

This was a change from my previous way of working. My time away making abstract art was influencing my book art.

I had always been reluctant about making a Christmas book, but when the idea for my book Dream Snow came to me it seemed impossible to resist.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sitting Down to Eat

I have often fantasized about being a chef.

I think it would be fun to wear a white apron and a chef's hat and cook up a delicious meal!

When I was a boy, we lived in Germany with my mother's parents and on some Sundays we would go to visit my father's parents. They lived about a mile away at the most and I remember they were very nice grandparents. My grandmother was a very good cook. There were always things cooking on the stove to test. In the back of the house was a big yard with a garden, apple trees, chickens, rabbits.

My grandmother always had a gift for me. An egg from her chickens, a jar of raspberry jam. She would tell me, "Here, Eric. Have an egg. Give it to your mother to make a pancake for you."

She was very warm and she cooked a lot. I would go there and she would say: "Sit down. Eat."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Colors and Words

“We are alike in the same ways,” a child once wrote to me. “I like colors and you like colors, I like words and you like words.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Breaking the Record

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to share that the Read for the Record campaign on October 8, 2009 was a huge success and more than 2 million children participated - more than twice what Jumpstart had hoped! While most of the events were held in the United States with events in Iowa, California, Alabama and Virginia among other states, we did hear from our publisher in Taiwan that more than 4000 children participated in libraries and children's centers in 18 different cities or counties there.
I am proud to have been a part of this program.
Congratulations Jumpstart for breaking the record and to everyone who participated!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mister Rogers

I've been thinking about Fred Rogers these days. A number of years ago, he came to my studio and filmed a segment of an episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. It was an honor to work with him and to appear on his TV show. The way he spoke to children was so calm and kind and respectful. I am so glad that his work is being made available now on the PBS web site and am delighted that an excerpt of us reading my book From Head to Toe together is included as one of the site's 40 video clips. I hope you will enjoy watching!

On Thursday, November 5, Fred Rogers will be remembered and honored at the dedication and unveiling of the "Tribute to Children" statue in Pittsburgh, the city where he lived and worked. For more information, please visit
Family Communications web site

I will always remember Fred with great fondness and admiration.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Carle Honors 2009

I was in New York last month to celebrate the Carle Honors, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art's annual gala and auction. Each year, The Carle Honors recognizes the contributions of four people in the field of children's books and this year they were an inspiring group: illustrator Alice Provensen who at 91 travelled from California for the occasion, Kyle Zimmer who started the organization First Book which has donated more than 65 million books to children, editor Walter Lorraine who worked with David Macaulay, Chris Van Allsburg, Lois Lowry and Allen Say among others. And the founders of Cricket Magazine, Marianne and Blouke Carus who created a publication where many illustrators' careers began. It was an exciting evening with many hellos and hugs with old friends and colleagues who I don't see as regularly as I used to, remembering old times we've shared. There were so many friends from the world of children's books all together on a warm evening on a beautiful terrace in New York. The speeches were moving, the food delicious and the dessert, quite amazing, as you can see!

photo credit:Kate Gray

Friday, October 9, 2009

Celebrating Jumpstart in New York City

Dear Friends,

It has been an amazing few days celebrating Jumpstart's Read for the Record campaign and I am honored to have been a part of this program. There have been readings in schools and libraries around the country, as well as in other countries including China and Australia!

It was a whirlwind time in New York with the Today Show on Thursday morning with Mary Louise Parker, Vince Vaughn, Stephanie March, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Stone, Madison Pettis and other celebrities who read
The Very Hungry Caterpillar to children on the plaza as well as a celebration for Jumpstart at the New York Public Library.

And I attended the lighting ceremony at the top of The Empire State Building which was orange and white in honor of Jumpstart's orange logo!

The day before, I visited the New York Stock Exchange where I had been invited with others from Jumpstart to ring the closing bell.

It was a very exciting and festive time. I am so impressed by the tremendous work of the staff and volunteers at Jumpstart who together made this program so successful. It is wonderful that so many people were reading together.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Read for the Record

I am happy to announce that my book The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the official book in Jumpstart's Read for the Record campaign this year. The goal of this program is to set a Guinness World Record for the number of people reading the same book on the same day to children around the world and to shine the spotlight on the importance of early literacy. On October 8th, all around the world, more than one million people are expected to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to children. I will be appearing on the Today Show in New York to help celebrate. Hopefully a record will be set, bigger than ever before!

Here is video you might like to watch about this wonderful program

Sign up at Jumpstart's web site to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and be a part of this year's Read for the Record.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Seed that Grows into a Story

Sometimes ideas for my books seem to burst into bloom. But often the seed of the idea had been planted much earlier; had been growing quietly inside me for years. An example of this, the seed or idea for my book From Head to Toe, was planted all the way back when I was in high school. I had a strong aversion to physical exercise and sports and felt pressured by the competitive nature of physical education. As a result, I often skipped gym class.

Years later, as an adult, I suffered from back pain (while I enjoyed walking and gardening I spent a lot of time at my desk in my studio and all of the sitting I was doing started to catch up with me). I went to see a massage therapist who gave me exercises which I did every day. These stretches had wonderful names: "Angry cat" was one of them and "old horse" was another. As I did these exercises the feelings from years before, of not enjoying gym class - of feeling like an outsider at school when it came to sports - came to the surface. The seed for the story started to grow and with the names of the exercises dancing in my imagination, the idea for From Head to Toe began to take hold. A young child once told me, "Ideas come from both your inside and your outside." I have found this to be true for me. The inside event (the feelings I had as a school boy who didn't like gym class), and the outside event (doing the exercises given to me by my massage therapist) somehow mingled together to make a book.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My weekend in Massachusetts

Dear Friends,

I have just returned from a short trip to western Massachusetts. It was a very full and busy few days. I was happy to be in my old studio again, to see all my books and papers stored there. I even made a few small pieces of abstract art, in between the excitement of scheduled events.

I attended the beautiful wedding of the daughter of dear friends, which was held at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Here I am with the bride and groom and a young friend.

The next day, I went back to the Museum for the book signing, which was attended by more than 500 visitors and museum members some of whom traveled quite a distance to be there. It was great to be at the Museum again (I am impressed by the main hall every time I walk inside), to see old and new friends and to be welcomed by such a kind and patient crowd.

Here I am signing books:

And here I am after the signing with Stacy Gabrielle from Crayola, and Alix Kennedy, Director of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. I was very honored to receive a giant Crayola crayon in my new favorite color: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" green. The only other special crayon color of this kind that Crayola has created was for Oprah! And it was the color purple!

And this is me in The Very Hungry Caterpillar seat that was sent to the Museum by my German publisher Gerstenberg Verlag:

It was a very memorable time, truly a pleasure, and I am glad to be home again with Bobbie surrounded by the hills of North Carolina.

Eric Carle

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cats and Dogs

Animals are a constant source of comfort and fascination, the ones in the wild and the ones we live with in our home. I love all kinds of animals but I am especially fond of cats. There are cats and dogs in many of my books. When I lived on my own in New York City, I had two cats named Fifi (black, long-haired) and Mitzi (a tiger cat), who I wrote about in my book Flora and Tiger. My wife, Bobbie and I had a lovely cat named Annie (grey, long-haired) for many years. You may have also noticed a white dog in my stories. Our beloved Tock, a white Samoyed, was the inspiration. (By the way, Tock was named for the dog in the book, The Phantom Tollbooth, written by my friend Norton Juster.)

We do not have a pet right now, but when in Florida we are visited regularly by a stray cat, named by the neighbors - Whitey - who we very much enjoyed seeing each day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dreams and Realities

Sometimes dreams become real tangible things, like books or buildings.

A dream: It is night time. In the distance, between the hills, some stars fall from the sky. They come closer and closer. Finally a star hits me. It does not hurt. Just the opposite. The star takes me by the hand and together we float toward the heavens.

A reality: Later, I created my book "Draw Me A Star" based on this dream.

Another dream that became a reality:

In 1992 my wife and I were invited to Japan by my Japanese publisher in Tokyo. This visit deeply impressed us. Shrines, museums, Kabuki theater and incredible sushi. And we were introduced to a Picture Book Museum. Chihiro Iwasaki (1918-1974) was a leading and beloved picture book artist. She left her work to her son Takeshi Matsumoto. "Is it possible to see Chihiro’s pictures?” Neighbors asked. Takeshi hung his mother's pictures on the wall of his living room. That was the beginning. Then he attached a small museum to the house. Years later, he built a 20,000 square foot stunning museum in Azumino, two hours from Tokyo.

And that was the beginning of our dream, still unconscious, like a seed whose roots invisibly took hold in the soil. In 1995, we seriously and with great enthusiasm began our plans. Seven years later the doors opened to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Seven years just like in fairy tales. This sounds almost euphoric. But we had many doubts and sleepless nights. Are we on the right path? We are without experience. The scale of the undertaking at times seemed overwhelming. But in the end we said yes. And so our dream became a reality.

I am thinking about our dream these days, as I plan my trip to the Museum later this month.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book signing

Dear Friends,

I will be traveling to Massachusetts next month and visiting with friends and family. And on Sunday, August 23rd at Noon, I will be making my annual appearance at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to sign books and say hello to visitors.

For more information about this event as well as many other happenings at the Museum, including an exhibition that has recently opened of my friend Tomie dePaola's work, please visit the Museum's web site.

I hope you will join us!
Eric Carle

Friday, July 24, 2009

End Sheets

The colorful patterns on the inside covers of my books are called end sheets or end papers. An end sheet is like a theatre curtain in that it appears at the beginning, before the play starts, and at the end, after the play has finished. I pay great attention to the design of my end sheets; they often reflect something about the book and set the tone for the story.

I am especially fond of the end papers in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, pieces of colorful paper with holes in them, because they remind me of how the book started: from punching holes with a hole puncher.

For me, designing the end sheets for each book is part of the challenge and the pleasure of creating a book.

Here are some examples:

From Head to Toe

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me

1,2,3 to the Zoo

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Farm Summer

In the second year of the Second World War — I had just turned 12, my maternal grandmother remembered from her youth a farm girl she had known. Off went a postcard: could Eric spend the summer vacation with her? Yes, came the reply. A small suitcase was packed. I traveled 4 hours by train and walked another 2 to a tiny village consisting of perhaps 8 farms. Maria, my grandmother’s friend, was an elderly unmarried woman living with her 90 year old widowed father, whom I called Grandfather.

Their living quarters, barn and stables were all in the same building, under one roof. They owned 3 cows, 2 pigs, a dozen chickens with a proud rooster and several bee hives in the abutting garden. In the garden grew all their vegetables and fruit that they needed.

There was no indoor plumbing. There was a water pump inside the kitchen. No hot water, no bathtub, no water closet, no cars, no refrigerator. I had a guest bed in the old man’s room. I still remember him snoring dreadfully and getting up in the middle of the night to use the chamber pot that would be emptied in the morning.

Maria worked until midnight baking bread, darning socks, washing and cleaning and then getting up at 4 in the morning to take her old bicycle and pedaling to the nearby forest to pick mushrooms or berries. Not for us, these were washed and carefully packed and delivered by her on the bicycle to the nearest city to be sold to the “rich city folk”.

My summer vacation with Maria and Grandfather will remain one of the most glorious experiences of my youth. Learning to milk a cow. Watching the bees around their hives in Maria’s garden. Searching for eggs in the barn. Picking wild blueberries and cranberries. Feeding noisy pigs. Quietly spending hours in an abandoned stone quarry where I watched frogs and salamanders in puddles of water. Observing the local cheese maker making cheeses. And, of course, enjoying the robust, yet delicious meals.

All this and more in this sheltered and pastoral place while a murderous war was ravaging Europe.

-Eric Carle

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pictures from Portugal

I received many lovely e-mails and letters this spring including these beautiful photographs of pictures from a book created by school children in Portugal.

I hope you will enjoy these too!
Eric Carle

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turning 80

Dear Friends,

Here I am with my mother in 1934 in Syracuse, NY. I was 5 years old when this photograph was taken, and now I am 80 years old.

Many things have happened between then and now, but I feel a strong connection to the child I once was, the child that is still inside. I can still remember while on a walk with my father, holding a lizard in my hands - the way it moved and pushed its head against the insides of my cupped hands; sitting in my Grandmother's lap and understanding her German words but not being able to respond; the support and kindness of my mother who encouraged my creative interests; I remember the light streaming in through the windows of my classroom, which I've thought of as my first experience of beauty.

There are so many moments that have stayed with me, or that come back if I scratch the surface of my memory by looking at an old photograph.

Eric Carle

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Quintet of Books

Sometimes, readers ask me why a number of my books have the word "Very" in the title. After The Very Hungry Caterpillar had been published I wanted to create a “Very” quartet. Why a quartet? I liked the idea of a group. But also, I must admit that I had been taken by the sound of The Alexandria Quartet, written by Lawrence Durrell, which I read a long time ago. The story of which I cannot much recall, but the sound of these three words, The Alexandria Quartet have remained with me. Ideas, or a speck of an idea, come from the darndest places! I proceeded to write and illustrate Spider, Cricket and Firefly and completed my quartet. But what should happen? A tiny voice whispered to me “quintet” And so the Click Beetle was born.

However, each "Very" book came about in a different way. The Very Hungry Caterpillar had a sort of accidental beginning in that I was punching holes into a stack of papers. I knew right away that the spider in The Very Busy Spider would be the hero, but it took me a long time to come up with the idea of a raised web. (In the first book the hole was the given - the caterpillar followed. In the second book, the spider was the given - the raised web followed.) With The Very Quiet Cricket, my third Very book, I knew from the beginning about the insect and the sound. In my fourth Very book, The Very Lonely Firely, I knew I wanted a different kind of surprise at the end. And with The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, the fifth book in my quintet, the theme of perseverance, that one must try and try again, was where I began.

Now I have a complete quintet. Five movements exploring a theme. I sometimes feel like a composer of music - and why not!

I hope you have enjoyed these thoughts on my Very books and my musings on how these compositions came to life. Be it crickets or humans, we can only make music when the circumstances are right. I didn't invent that, I only observed it.

Eric Carle

Thursday, May 28, 2009

All the Colors

Dear Friends,

A recent burst of color in my neighborhood!

Eric Carle

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some thoughts on LOOKING and SEEING

Dear Friends,

Art is often thought of as a painting or sculpture in a museum. And while this is true, it is only partially so. We tend to overlook things of beauty that surround us in our daily lives. A spider web, the bark of a tree, the surface of a rock. And beauty is not only found in nature, look closely at a screw imbedded in a piece of rusty steel, a broken windowpane, the bristles of a hardened paint brush, a segment of colorful graffiti on a concrete wall, which, by the way, tells us that art and beauty are in the eyes of the beholder and may not be considered “beautiful”.

In order to heighten one’s sense of looking and seeing try cutting a square window, about 15 cm, into a piece of sturdy paper and look through it. Hold it close or at arm’s length and look at all kinds of things around you.

You’ll be surprised how different the same object will look when viewed through the frame held up close or from a distance.

Look close up at the surface of the sidewalk, a piece of sandpaper, a weathered piece of wood

Or look at the leaves of a tree or bush.

Have you ever noticed how many shapes and sizes and colors leaves have?

Look up at a cloud. Let it drift by or move along with it.

What you see is a strange and beautiful world which you may not have been aware of.

By framing an image that way and isolating it from its usual surrounding it often takes on a different quality or meaning.

By now you understand what I am trying to express. There are so many things to look at and see differently from what we are used to.

In a museum, I like to look closely at a large masterpiece and study a very small area of brush strokes.

I am fascinated by the small world of brush strokes isolated from the painting itself. Try it sometime and you too will be amazed.

Eric Carle