Eric Carle, a renowned German-American children’s book author, illustrator, and designer, was born on June 25, 1929. Despite having most of his childhood and adolescence shadowed by war, he was known for his bright and colorful illustrations with playful designs, drawing inspiration from memories of his childhood. He studied in Stuttgart’s State Academy of Fine Arts. Carle was well-known for his award-winning book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” which has been translated in more than 60 languages and sold over 50 million copies around the world. We’ll take you through the life and times of this literary icon.
Eric Carle was born on June 25, 1929 to German immigrant parents, Erich W. Carle and Johanna Oelschlaeger, in Syracuse, New York. In 1935, his parents took him to their hometown in Stuttgart, Germany. He studied graphic art and typography at Stuttgart’s State Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1950. Carle fled to Schwenningen to escape the bombings during World War II.
In 1952, Carle made it back to New York City where he worked for “The New York Times” as a graphic designer. (He married Dorothea Wohlenberg in 1953, but the couple divorced 10 years later.) He then worked as a freelancer leading him to his fateful encounter with the late children’s book author, Bill Martin, Jr. The two worked together to produce a bestseller, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” Their other collaborations included “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” in 1991, “Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?” in 2003, and “Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?” (published in 2007). The book that made him famous was the award-winning “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (released in 1969). He has illustrated over 70 books, which have sold more than 145 million copies around the world. The theme of his stories, design, and illustrations usually came from his love of nature. He produced his artwork using a hand-painted tissue-paper collage technique, creating countless bright and colorful images.
Carle founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. He was bestowed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 2003. In 2010, the New York Society of Illustrators granted him the Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award. After his divorce from Wohlenberg, he married Barbara Morrison in 1973; they were together until her death in 2015. He died on May 23, 2021 in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Carle graduates from the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, Germany.
Carle returns to New York City and lands a job in “The New York Times” as a graphic designer.
Carle and Martin publish their first and best-selling collaboration, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”
Carle publishes “1, 2, 3, to the Zoo,” a book that he writes and illustrates.
Carle publishes his well-known and award-winning work “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
Carle receives the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his immense contribution to children’s literature.
Why We Love Eric Carle
A joy for children
Despite his traumatic childhood and adolescence, Carle always brought warmth and happiness to children through his works. Not only were his illustrations bright and entertaining, but he also encouraged his young readers to learn about the world around them through his colorful and playful storybooks.
His creative and playful designs
A lot of Carle’s books carried entertaining designs that appealed to children. There were twinkling lights in “The Very Lonely Firefly” and sound mechanisms in “The Very Quiet Cricket.” The pages of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” had holes in them, as though they were eaten by a caterpillar.
His passion and inspiration
Carle’s success didn’t start until he was in his late 30s. But he pursued his passion by drawing inspiration from his memories as a child. As the saying goes, there’s a kid in all of us.
5 Surprising Facts
His measly pocket money
When Carle returned to New York City in 1952, he had only $40 in his wallet.
He found true love in his 40s
Carle married Barbara Morrison when he was 44 years old; they were together for more than 30 years.
He was inspired by his dad
When writing stories and making illustrations for his books, Carle often got his ideas from his childhood; his father would take him on walks through woods and meadows, telling him about the trees and small creatures they found.
A meadow named after his wife
After Morrison’s death, Carle dedicated a meadow outside the Eric Carle Museum to her and named it “Bobbie’s Meadow.”
A Google doodle
As a tribute to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” Google asked Carle to design a Google doodle logo, which was displayed on its homepage on March 20, 2009.
Eric Carle FAQs
Did Eric Carle have any children?
Yes, Carle sired two children (Rolf and Cirsten) from his marriage to Wohlenberg.
To whom did Eric Carle dedicate “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”?
Carle dedicated “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to his younger sister Christa.
What was Eric Carle's last book?
Carle’s last book was “The Nonsense Show” published in 2015; it tells about circus animals, a cat taming mice, and a parade of flying fish.
Eric Carle’s birthday dates