Farewell to Eric Carle, 1929-2021

May 27, 2021 | Melanie L.

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Iconic children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle has died at age 91.

One of the best known children’s books creators of all time, Carle produced more than 70 books over 50 years. His brightly-coloured mixed-media collages are recognizable for their unique style and child-friendly design.

Born in Syracuse, New York, Carle grew up in Germany. He returned to the United States in 1952 to work as a graphic designer at the New York Times. Later, he went on to work in advertising.

Brown Bear  Brown Bear  What do you See

In 1967 author Bill Martin Jr. saw one of Carle's illustrations in an advertisement. Martin contacted Carle about working together on his new book. The collaboration resulted in Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Brown Bear, Brown Bear was an instant hit, and is still a toddler favourite and librarian go-to in storytimes.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Carle went on to write his own books. In 1969 he published his most recognizable work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It has been translated into 66 languages and sold over 50 million copies. More than 50 years later, children still can't get enough. In 2018, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was the most frequently borrowed picture book at the Toronto Public Library, with 2,204 checkouts.

While not all of Carle's books achieved the same level of fame as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, many are just as beloved. My personal favourite, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, is a magical starry story about a girl who longs to play with the moon. 

Some of Carle's works are out of print, but you can still find them in the Toronto Public Library's Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.

The IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities has copies of several of Carle's books in Braille. 

Eric Carle will be missed. But his legacy will continue with every child who discovers a love of reading with his books in hand.

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