The World of Eric Carle

One of my favorite children’s author/illustrators is Eric Carle. His bright and friendly characters just make me smile. I love using his books in my storytimes. The repetitive and predictable text makes it easy for preschoolers to learn colors, animals and rhyming words. 

Carle started out as a graphic designer for The New York Times, then became art director for an advertising agency. His unique collage-style using painted tissue paper caught the eye of a children’s author. Carle broke out into children’s publishing when Bill Martin, Jr. approached him to illustrate his upcoming book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He’s been pushing the edge of children’s illustration ever since, incorporating special features into his books like featuring unusual noises at the end of A Very Clumsy Click Beetle and The Very Quiet Cricket.

As an artist, Carle’s goal is to help children like school more than he did. He said, “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. I should like my books to bridge that great divide.” Sharing his books in storytime, after children have read them curled up in their beds with their parents, is a nice way to ease the children into a structured environment.

OWL recently acquired a museum pass to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. This pass admits two adults and four children for free. The art gallery offers a children’s library, a children’s craft room, and lots of outdoor space to get the wiggles out. Until I get a chance to visit again, I’m going to rummage through the stacks to be inspired:

The Bear Series (written by Bill Martin Jr.) is a favorite of many storytimers. This is one of the first books they can “read” on their own. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is my favorite. There’s a new Slide and Find version where children can find out which animal is next. I’ve given it away for birthdays and Christmas presents. Popular children’s artist Greg & Steve wrote a song to sing along with titled, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” This is a great companion for the book.

I love building preschoolers’ vocabulary with animals such as a macaroni penguin, a boa constrictor, and a screech owl with his other stories: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?.

Today is Monday teaches children about the days of the week. There is an accompanying food for each night that the family eats together. Greg & Steve wrote an upbeat song to pair with this story, too, titled “Today is Monday.”

From Head to Toe begs the question, “Can You Do It?” This story teaches body awareness that children will love to copy the animals in the book, arching their backs like cats and stomping their feet like elephants. The Learning Station wrote a raggae-inspired tune called “Head to Toe Dance” to go with this one.

Carle’s The Very Busy Spider introduces children to animals and their hobbies. Everyone wants Spider to play with them by eating grass, running in the meadow, jumping on rocks, or taking a nap. Spider is too busy, though, spinning her web. At last, by nightfall Spider is done and catches a fly before falling fast asleep.

I can’t write a blog about Eric Carle without mentioning his classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. OWL’s storytime repertoire includes this timeless story each spring. A unique flannel story helps reinforce the days of the week and foods as the caterpillar turns into a butterfly. His idea for this book came from fooling around with a stack of paper and a hole punch. Before he knew it, the story was born!

Eric Carle’s stories are sure to delight any child in your life from birth to age eight.

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who will be visiting the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to see the Jules Feiffer’s exhibit.

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