An Illustrator for the Young at Art

Young at Art, p.4

Child: How did you become a children's book writer and illustrator? If you hadn't gone into this profession, what do you think you might have done?

Carle: My career began as a graphic designer. Later I was an art director for an advertising agency in New York. In the mid 1960s, Bill Martin, Jr., saw an ad of a red lobster that I had designed and asked me to illustrate his book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? What an inspiring book! I was set on fire! It was possible to do something special that would show a child the joy that could be found in books. This opportunity changed my life. And almost without any planning, I became an author and illustrator of books for children.

Over the years, I have on occasion fantasized about being a chef in a fine restaurant, dreaming up mouth-watering meals, wearing a tall white hat, giving orders to my sous chefs and every so often dipping my finger into a pot or pan to taste my inventions. But most likely, if I hadn't started to create books, I would still be doing graphic design of some sort.

Child: Do you think there is an art to reading a picture book with a child? If so, can you share your philosophy with us?

Carle: I would suggest that the parent, grandparent, or other caregiver hold the child close when he or she is being read to. Put your arms around your child's shoulders, hold her hand, place her on your lap. The child is still of an age when she needs to be touched in order to be in touch. These gestures tell your child that you care enough to give your total attention. Growing up is often perplexing and a child needs reassurance. When you do these things, the book becomes more than pages with words and pictures.

Child: Is there a message you hope children and parents get from your books?

Carle: I am fascinated by the period in a child's life when he or she, for the first time, leaves home to go to school: from home and security -- a world of play and the senses -- to a world of reason and abstraction, order and discipline. I want my books to bridge that great divide. For me, leaving the warmth of home to go to school was traumatic. It occurs to me that I am trying to make that difficult first step from home to school easier with my pictures and books.

I would also say, very simply, that each child is an individual and that he should be allowed to respond in his own particular way to books, art, or whatever it is that he is learning from or looking at.

Child: How would you suggest parents support their children's creativity from the earliest ages?

Carle: I would just say encourage and nurture them in the same way you would anything else -- with respect and love.

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