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Blog/Eric Carle, designer, illustrator & author dies, age 91

28th May 2021

Eric Carle, the German-American illustrator, designer and author of one of the world’s most loved children’s books The Very Hungry Caterpillar has died aged 91 it has been announced.

Born in Syracuse, New York to a German mother and American father, Carle moved with his parents to Stuttgart, Germany prior to the outbreak second world war at the age of six.

After graduating from the local art school where one particularly enlightened tutor gave him access to ‘degenerate artists’ like Marc Chagall and Paul Klee, banned and shamed by the Nazis.

With the cessation of the war he moved back to the US in 1952, where he took a job as a graphic designer with the New York Times.

Author Bill Martin Jnr. spotted an illustration Carle had produced for an advert in the Times and asked him if he’d like to collaborate on a book Brown bear, brown bear, what did you see? published in 1967 and which became a best seller.

Eric Carle found his collage style – with brightly hand-painted paper being layered on top of one-another to create vivid, textured pictures – perfectly suited to children’s books, and so Carle embarked on a new career as a children’s author illustrator in his own right.

1, 2, 3 to the Zoo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar followed in 1969, and with their simple storytelling, nature theme, and tactile and interactive qualities they established Carle’s style early on, proving to be an instant hit.

Eric Carle would go on to write over 70 books in the ensuing years, selling over 170 million copies worldwide – none more popular than The very hungry caterpillar, voted the second most popular children’s character of all time by The School Library Journal readers in 2012.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been represented hundreds of times in all sorts of media, from games, clothing and stage shows and even featured on a Google Doodle – and it’s this simple but beautifully drawn character for which Eric Carle will be forever remembered.

The very hungry caterpillar - Eric Carle


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