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Eric Carle (1929–2021), “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” author

by Linnea Crowther

Eric Carle was an author and illustrator of children’s books, including “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Writing career

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” published in 1969, has sold about 50 million copies and been translated into at least 40 languages. It has consistently been ranked among the best children’s books and best picture books. Carle’s dozens of other books for children include “The Grouchy Ladybug,” “The Very Busy Spider,” “From Head to Toe,” and “The Mixed-Up Chameleon.” Carle’s honors include the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for children’s literature, awarded in 2003, and the Regina Medal of the Catholic Library Association.

Carle’s style

Carle’s distinctive illustrations charmed generations of children and their parents. He used collage to create his brightly-colored illustrations, layering hand-painted paper. Multiple shades of the same color came together for a vibrant, textured effect. His books often included extra dimensions, such as die-cut pages or twinkling lights. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” featured holes in the pages to suggest the caterpillar had eaten through them.

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Carle on why children love “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”

“[M]any children can identify with the helpless, small, insignificant caterpillar, and they rejoice when it turns into a beautiful butterfly. I think it’s a message of hope. It says: I too can grow up. I 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?” —from a 2016 interview with the Guardian

Tributes to Eric Carle

Full obituary: The New York Times

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