Simply Told and Radiantly Illustrated: Appreciating the Work of Eric Carle

Generations of children may feel the world is a bit less colorful as children’s author and illustrator Eric Carle has died at the age of 91.

There’s a great piece by Emily Langer in the Washington Post, where I got the delightfully succinct phrase “simply told and radiantly illustrated from. There’s also a nice 2-minute piece by Neda Ulaby on NPR as well as a remembrance from the BBC.

Eric Carle and the denizens of Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See?, the work with Bill Martin that lit a fire to do children’s books

In these remembrances, you’ll get a sense of not only his career, but his life leading up to a rather life-changing and ravenous caterpillar, including a childhood partially lived in Nazi Germany, depressingly confirmed by him in interviews to be rather devoid of color.

I don’t remember being particularly enamored of Eric Carle’s work growing up even though I recall I enjoyed it. It could be that I discounted its effects as I leaped from picture books to chapter books at a voracious pace. It’s more than likely that I failed to appreciate how much work can go into presenting something simply. For all our interest in magic as kids, we sometimes miss the wizards behind the curtains.

All this changed as a parent, where I got to see firsthand the impact of his books had on my children. And it wasn’t just the books that came into rotation. The animated adaptations were played again and again — and one of my kid’s first theater experiences was seeing a puppet adaptation of several of the stories with me and his children’s librarian grandmother. His face lit up seeing the larger-than-life –and more than a little colorful– caterpillar munch his way through all sorts of prop foods.

It’s nice to know that, in his lifetime, he got to see the joy and color he brought to the world, something delved into by Emma Brockes in a profile of Carle for The Guardian back in 2009.

Thanks for all the colorful memories.

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