Monday, March 9, 2009

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Turns 40!

Forty years ago, in 1969, Eric Carle's best known work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, made its debut. To celebrate that 40th anniversary (and also Eric's 80th birthday), Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, has just published The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book, which goes on sale tomorrow.

Born in Syracuse, New York, Eric Carle moved with his parents to Germany when he was six years old and he was educated there. His dream was always to return to America, which he did in 1952, soon finding a job as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times. Later, for many years, he was the art director of an advertising agency.

One day, Bill Martin Jr asked Carle to illustrate a story he'd written. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was the result of that collaboration. Since then, Carle has illustrated more than seventy books, most of which he also wrote and many of them bestsellers. Since The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published, it has been translated into more than 47 languages and sold more than 29 million copies.

In 2002, he and his wife Bobbie founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., with the goal of creating a place where original picture book art could be enjoyed and appreciated. The museum's 40,000 square foot building houses three galleries dedicated to rotating exhibitions of picture book art from around the world; a hands-on art studio for creating masterpieces of one's own; an auditorium for performances, films, and lectures; a library for reading and storytelling; and a cafe and museum shop. Since its opening in November 2002, the museum has welcomed more than 325,000 vistors, including 16,502 school children.

Carle's books often portray small creatures because "when I was a small boy, my father would take me on walks across meadows and through woods. He would lift a stone or peel back the bark of a tree and show me the living things that scurried about. He'd tell me about the life cycles of this or that small creature and then he would carefully put the little creature back into its home. I think in my books I honor my father by writing about small living things And in a way I recapture those happy times."

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