Thursday, May 27, 2021
Eric Carle dies at the age of 91
Creator of the “Very Hungry Caterpillar” is dead
He described his childhood during National Socialism as painful – but it became the driving force behind his stories. The US author Eric Carle has written more than 100 books, his most famous being “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. He made millions of children around the world happy.
An apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, five oranges, a piece of chocolate cake, an ice cream cone, a sour cucumber, a slice of cheese, a piece of sausage, a lollipop, a piece of fruitcake, a sausage, a tartlet and a piece of melon : The “very hungry little caterpillar” eats all of this before it pupates and turns into a butterfly – and millions of children around the world would like to hear their story all over again right away.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of the most famous children’s books in the world – now its creator, the author and illustrator Eric Carle, is dead. The US writer died on Sunday at the age of 91, his family announced on his website . His father succumbed to kidney failure in his studio in the US state of Massachusetts, said son Rolf of the “New York Times”.
“The colorful illustrations are a kind of antidote to the grays and browns of my childhood in Germany,” Carle announced shortly before his 90th birthday in June 2019. Born in Syracuse in the US state of New York, he returned to Nazi Germany from the USA in 1935 at the age of six with his parents, German emigrants.
“This start of school is unforgettable for me – a small classroom with narrow windows, a hard pencil, a small sheet of paper and the strict admonition not to make mistakes,” he recalled of his school days in Stuttgart. “It was such a contrast to Miss Frickey”, his elementary school teacher in the USA, “whom I loved and whose light-flooded classroom I painted in bright colors”. He never forgot his teacher’s blows in Stuttgart with a thin, hard bamboo stick into old age. “I have painful memories of growing up in Germany during World War II.”
The painful childhood experiences became the driving force for his later work as a children’s book author. He published more than 100 of them, which, according to Gerstenberg Verlag, have been translated into around 70 languages.
Back to the USA for $ 40
He came across children’s books by chance: in 1952, after graduating from the Stuttgart Art School, he moved back to the USA with just 40 dollars in his pocket, became a graphic designer for the “New York Times” and artistic director at an advertising agency. The writer Bill Martin saw one of Carle’s prints one day and asked if he could add pictures to a story about a brown bear. “My inner child – who had been uprooted and suppressed so suddenly and drastically – was slowly coming back to life,” said Carle later about the new job. Former walks with the father through meadows and forests also shaped the work. “He picked up a stone and showed me the little creatures that lived under it. I think by writing about little creatures in my books, I honor him too,” Carle said later.
Carle tells the stories of spiders, beetles and chameleons using collages made from self-painted tissue paper. The artist Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a role model. He punched holes in the pages of the book for his most famous hero – the green caterpillar with a red head, who first suffers from stomach ache after her feeding orgy and then turns into a butterfly. In the book, children can experience with their fingers how the caterpillar eats its way through pears and strawberries, and finally through chocolate cake and sausages. “I try to entertain with my pictures and my stories,” Carle once said. But he also let in a little something to learn, “in a covert way”. With the caterpillar, Carle directs one’s gaze to the transformation from egg to butterfly, weaving numbers and days of the week into the story.
The book was published in the USA in 1969. According to the Gerstenberg Verlag, more than 50 million copies have been sold to date. Carle could never fully explain the success of the caterpillar: “Now I think it is partly because most children can identify with the helpless, small, insignificant caterpillar and they are happy when it turns into a beautiful butterfly . “