On Sunday, the world lost one of the greats in children’s literature. Eric Carle, the legend behind The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has passed away, aged 91, on 23 May.

Carle’s books have been a staple in households for decades now. His most iconic book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, was published in 1969 and continues to be one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.

Eric Carle death - book collection
Source: The Carle Bookstore, Eric Carle Museum

A lifetime of inspiration

Carle didn’t start writing and illustrating books until he was nearly 40. Since then he’s illustrated more than 70 books for kids.

According to an interview with NPR, he took inspiration for his stories from his own childhood in New York.

I think it started with my father. He took me for long walks and explained things to me.”

After moving to New York with his parents, Carle then returned back to Germany with his family, where they faced plenty of hardships, including hunger.

All of us regretted it. During the war, there were no colours. Everything was gray and brown and the cities were all camouflaged with grays and greens and brown greens and gray greens or brown greens, and … there was no colour.”

Book week costumes
Carle’s books continue to be one of the most popular BookWeek costumes for children. Source: Supplied

Carle returned to the USA as soon as he graduated from art school at age 23. He worked for The New York Times and studied the art of the impressionists, which was clearly a big inspiration for his own books.

Carle served in the US military during the Korean War, then returned to the world of advertising before moving into children’s books. He illustrated his first children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? in 1967.

A book of hope

The Very Hungry Caterpillar recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and Carle spoke about his most famous story in a commemorative video released by Penguin Random House.

Eric Carle death
Source: Instagram

He explained how he wanted it to serve as a literary cocoon for children getting ready for kindergarten. So sweet!

I think it is a book of hope. Children need hope. You, little insignificant caterpillar, can grow up into a beautiful butterfly and fly into the world with your talent. Will I ever be able to do that? Yes, you will. I think that is the appeal of that book.”

The news of the author’s death has saddened an entire community but his colourful world will forever be cherished and remembered through his beautiful stories. Carle’s wife, Barbara Carle, died in 2015.

‘Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.’

Vale Eric Carle, 1929-2021

Vale Eric Carle, 1929-2021. Source: Instagram

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Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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