An Illustrator for the Young at Art

Renowned author and illustrator Eric Carle reveals his passion for picture books.

Young at Art, p.1

eric carle art
Eric Carle

At age 73 and with more than 70 books to his credit, Eric Carle is not about to rest on his laurels. This year, the beloved author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Busy Spider, and many other visually stunning, brightly colored books for young children has seen yet another of his dreams come true: the opening of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. The 40,000 square foot museum houses three galleries, which feature rotating exhibitions of prominent national and international picture book artists, an art studio that offers hands-on activities and classes, a 130-seat auditorium, and a library for reading and storytelling.

The secret to his success may well lie in his ability to understand kids' fears and hopes and see the world from a child's perspective. "When I work on a book, I try to entertain the child inside of me," says Carle, who recently shared with Child his creative process and his thoughts on what young children need most.

Child: You've illustrated and written so many beloved books for children. Which stand out in your memory and why?

Carle: I would have to say The Very Hungry Caterpillar because it was one of the first books that I both wrote and illustrated, and it's a very hopeful book. It says: I too can grow up. I too can unfold my wings (my talent) and fly into the world. This is a universal concern that children have: Will I grow up? Will I be able to function as an adult?

Child: "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth is a Child Best Book of the Year. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this wonderful story?

Carle: One day I felt overwhelmed, so I hung the "Do not disturb" sign on the door and locked myself in my studio. My life had become so busy with meetings and appointments. That was when the gentle and slow-moving sloth came to my mind -- this strange animal that sleeps up to 20 out of 24 hours, this boring creature that eats 10% of what other animals of equal size and weight consume, this expressionless critter that lives by itself and rarely makes a noise seemed the perfect antidote to the hectic situation I found myself in.

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