Eric Carle is a notable American designer and illustrator, whose extraordinary graphic work brought life to children’s literature. He also wrote a host of children’s book, employing some of the most appealing illustrations. His best known work is considered to be a picture book, titled The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which sold over 38 million copies worldwide.
On June 25, 1929, in Syracuse, New York, Eric Carle was born to Erich and Johanna Carle. His family moved back to their origin Stuttgart, Germany, when he turned six. He received his early education there and earned his graduate degree from a local art school. When the World War II broke out, his father was conscripted into German army and returned a broken man after being taken prisoner. He too was conscripted into army when he was 15 and had suffered the horrors of war. The terrorizing experience left him yearning to return to American soil. Eventually, he moved to New York in 1952 and landed his first job as a graphic designer for a renowned publication. However, at the advent of Korean War, Carle was drafted into American Army. Upon his return, he was hired again by The New York Times in the promotional department. Soon he worked his way up to become the art director of an advertising company.
Subsequently, Carle’s illustration of a red lobster caught an educator and author, Bill Martin Junior’s attention, who asked for his assistance in illustrating a picture book. They collaborated on a children’s book project, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, which instantly became an success with its publication in 1967. The picture book not only earned the status of a best-seller but also kick-started Carle’s career as an iconic children’s story writer and an illustrator. His other early books as both writer and illustrator include 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo, The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since then he has designed and penned over 70 picture books and which have been translated into more than 30 languages.
Carle’s illustrations are distinct and appealing to the sense. His art work employs the technique of handcrafted collages. He would paint himself the paper/tissue and cut it out to place them in a certain pattern over other painted papers to offer a bright and colorful image. Another distinguishing feature of his work is the added dimension brought out by die-cut papers. His The Very Lonely Firefly comes with twinkling lights and in The Very Quiet Cricket the lifelike sound of crickets can be heard. Moreover, the thematic sequence of his work is largely influenced by animals. Most of the characters in his children’s book are animals. He claims his illustrations to be inspired by childhood experiences he had with his father hiking over forest, where he learned about all those insects and animals. Therefore, growth and discovery are the central themes in his books. He also drew upon his love of nature which fascinated his young readers.
In 2009, Google paid tribute to Carle’s widely recognized work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by having him design its Google Doodle for their homepage which celebrated the beginning of spring. Additionally, he earned the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award 2003 for his contributions as a living author and illustrator of children’s book. Eric Carle currently resides in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wife, Barbara Morrison.