The Late, Great Eric Carle

“I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.” (Eric Carle)

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Eric Carle display, Johnsonville Library. Image: Lara van der Raaij

Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many other much loved classics, passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 91.

Eric was born in Syracuse, USA in 1929 but moved with his parents to Germany when he was six years old. He went to school and university in Germany but in 1952, as an adult, he decided to return to New York. Eric became a graphic designer at The New York Times newspaper and later an art director of an advertising agency. It was the graphics on an advertisement that Eric had created that caught the eye of Bill Martin Jr, author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? who asked Eric to illustrate this now famous book.

This was the beginning of Eric Carle’s true career and soon he was writing his own stories, too. His first wholly original book was 1,2,3 to the Zoo, followed soon afterward by the celebrated classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Eric’s Art & Words

Eric Carle’s art is distinctive and instantly recognisable. His artwork is created in collage technique, using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form bright and cheerful images. The themes of Eric Carle’s stories are usually drawn from his extensive knowledge and love of nature. Besides being beautiful and entertaining, his books always offer the opportunity to learn something about the world around and to connect us to the simple things of life, and how to overcome our fears.

Check out Eric’s unique and effective artistic technique HERE

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Book Jacket for: Te anuhe tino hiakaiBook Jacket for: Khubaja bhukyo keḍarapilara = The very hungry caterpillarBook Jacket for: al-Yaraqah al-jāʼiʻah jidan = The very hungry caterpillar

Although Eric Carle wrote and illustrated over 70 books in his lifetime, The Very Hungry Caterpillar stands out for many fans as a favourite. This much-loved classic was first published in 1969, and has gone on to sell around 55 million copies worldwide! It has also been translated into 60 languages. The idea for the format of the book came from playing around with a hole punch and thinking of a worm eating its way through a book. The rest, as they say, is history!

Here’s a short clip of Eric himself sharing his thoughts for the 45th Anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (2014):

You can immerse yourself in the beauty of Eric Carle’s many books at Wellington City Libraries:

Eric Carle’s book of many things. / Carle, Eric
“Very young children will delight in the vocabulary in this colourful book- filled with familiar and some not-so-well-known aspects of the world.”–Cataloguer.” (Catalogue)

A house for Hermit Crab / Carle, Eric
” Poor Hermit Crab! He’s outgrown his snug little shell and has to find a new home. And he does, with help from some friends who make the move less scary. Children facing change in their own lives will relate to Hermit Crab’s story and learn a lot about the fascinating world of marine life along the way. ” (Catalogue, abridged)

The grouchy ladybug / Carle, Eric
“A grouchy ladybug, looking for a fight, challenges everyone she meets regardless of their size or strength.” (Catalogue, abridged)

Have you seen my cat? / Carle, Eric
“A young boy encounters all sorts of cats while searching for the one he lost. Suggested level: junior, primary.” (Catalogue)

The very lonely firefly / Carle, Eric
“A lonely firefly goes out into the night searching for other fireflies.” (Catalogue)

From head to toe / Carle, Eric
“Creatures move their bodies in lots of different ways – just like people. Try wriggling and jiggling as you try to keep up with these animals.” (Catalogue)

Mister Seahorse / Carle, Eric
“After Mrs. Seahorse lays her eggs on Mr. Seahorse’s belly, he drifts through the water, greeting other fish fathers who are taking care of their eggs. Suggested level: junior, primary.” (Catalogue)

The Nonsense Show / Carle, Eric
“Ducks growing out of bananas? A mouse catching a cat? What’s wrong with this book? Yes, there’s something strange, something funny, and even downright preposterous on every page of this book. But it’s not a mistake–it’s nonsense! And it’s also surrealism” (Catalogue)

Author Interview: Maria Gill

Maria Gill SmallBookSeekers club members recently asked New Zealand Author Maria Gill about her books and writing.

How did you start writing and why?

From when I was a ten year old I knew I wanted to write a book one day. I always read and wrote a lot. Many years later, when I had children I began to put that dream into action. I completed writing courses, attended author talks and wrote every day. Books have been part of my life always and I wanted to see if I could do it. I thought I’d write fiction but I’ve found non-fiction so interesting and fun to write.


Of all the books that you have written, which is your favourite?

You tend to think the last book you wrote is the favourite because you’re so proud how well it has turned out and you want everyone else to see that too. So, that makes my two latest books my favourite: ‘New Zealand Hall of Fame’ and ‘The Call of the Kokako’.

What made you want to write books about famous people?

I had thought of the idea ten years ago but I was not ready as a writer to do it then (needed a few published books under my belt first). I have always enjoyed reading biographies and I’m interested in people and how they tick. I wanted to write a book that would inspire kids to think – hey, I would like to do that too – if they can do it so can I.

Why and how did you choose these 50 people for your book?

It was very difficult making the choice. I finally decided it needed to be people that 8-12 year olds would find interesting but they had to also have a track record (done internationally well or influenced NZ in a big way) and I wanted to have an even mix of females and males, and different cultures.

Did you meet any of the people you wrote about?

I met some of them at the book launch: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Peter Hillary (Sir Ed’s son), Don Merton’s wife, Shona McCullagh (dancer), Kelly Tarlton’s family, and I introduced myself to Rhys Darby at a comedy gig (and showed him the book).

What are you working on now?

A volcano book! While I was down in Taupo I investigated a few volcano areas and I’m hoping to go to White Island soon.

This Friday, July 22nd, is National Poetry Day. Can you write us a short poem?

I wrote this poem for the kokako – it’s a haiku:


In the tree’s glove

A grey bandit hops, mewing

Like a cat bereaved


Maria Gill will be visiting the Central Library on July 26th 2-3pm to run a free workshop for 6-12 year olds. With fun games and activities you can find out all about her latest books and how to write and illustrate. No need to book; just turn up.