The Very Hungry Caterpillar Rests
May 26, 2021 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Eric Carle, author and artist known for children's books such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar " and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" passed away on Sunday. In addition to being known for his books, he and his wife Bobbie founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.
posted by neilbert (67 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jquinby at 8:21 PM on May 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

posted by colossal at 8:21 PM on May 26, 2021

My family is particularly fond of Mr. Seahorse, in which the seahorse dad takes care of his eggs and a variety of good marine dads are featured!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 PM on May 26, 2021 [9 favorites]

posted by riruro at 8:27 PM on May 26, 2021

posted by Gorgik at 8:31 PM on May 26, 2021

He gave a bit of joy to this child, once.

posted by biogeo at 8:33 PM on May 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

One of the few creative things my autistic daughter is able to share is drawings of all the food items from the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:35 PM on May 26, 2021 [19 favorites]

posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 8:35 PM on May 26, 2021

We also lost Lois Ehlert, the illustrator of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Color Zoo, among many others.

Wishing you colorful heavens, Carl and Lois. You brought joy to so many through your work.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:37 PM on May 26, 2021 [18 favorites]

posted by brujita at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2021

His books are a fixture in this house, the very hungry caterpillar is probably what started my little reading.
posted by astrospective at 9:03 PM on May 26, 2021

I knew so little about him besides The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. Reading more about him just now, I was so saddened to learn about his childhood and so inspired and enchanted by the specific details he shared about his creative process (How I Paint Tissues, The Idea for Head to Toe).

How lucky we are to have had him among us, and how fortunate to get to hold his work in our hands.
posted by kristi at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2021 [8 favorites]

I liked the ending sentences to his obituary in the Times:

Throughout his long career, Mr. Carle always believed that the most important feedback came from his most dedicated readers.

“Many children have done collages at home or in their classrooms,” he wrote. “In fact, some children have said to me, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ I consider that the highest compliment.”

posted by Dip Flash at 9:10 PM on May 26, 2021 [19 favorites]

It's rare a day goes by at the moment I don't read something of his to my young daughter. A House For Hermit Crab is probably my favourite, but there are so many good ones. <3
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:10 PM on May 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

posted by oceanjesse at 9:27 PM on May 26, 2021

posted by praemunire at 9:34 PM on May 26, 2021

posted by Going To Maine at 9:38 PM on May 26, 2021

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:39 PM on May 26, 2021


Bedtime was extended so we could read A Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I can’t think of a better tribute to his work then to think of all the people reading his books today.
posted by lepus at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

We have all the books of course. There was a touring Children’s Theater production by the Mermaid Theater of Nova Scotia that came to town with a live production of Little Cloud, The Mixed-up Chameleon, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar. It was done with puppeteers in black holding vividly colored cut outs under black light and the whole thing was visually quite stunning and really captured the books perfectly. I love that these stories and paintings have endured across many generations of children.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:43 PM on May 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

posted by progosk at 9:55 PM on May 26, 2021

posted by From Bklyn at 10:01 PM on May 26, 2021

posted by Phssthpok at 10:43 PM on May 26, 2021

His books and illustrations are pretty important in our house. He was visited by Mister Rogers once.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:23 PM on May 26, 2021 [8 favorites]

posted by filtergik at 12:58 AM on May 27, 2021

There is a very cute video of a very young version of me delightedly reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to myself.
posted by Merus at 2:49 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by Faint of Butt at 2:55 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:31 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by Gelatin at 4:03 AM on May 27, 2021

In Dutch, the Very Hungry Caterpillar is called Rupsje Nooitgenoeg: Little Caterpillar Never-Enough. Truth be told, I did not care very much for the pictures when I was a small kid. I liked pictures with more details.

posted by Too-Ticky at 4:46 AM on May 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

posted by Don.Kinsayder at 5:20 AM on May 27, 2021

The youngest of my kids is many years past the time where I read Carle's -- and Ehlert's -- to them at bedtime or naptime, but those cadences are still very much in my mind.

Many lines from the babies' board books come to me as easily as movies quotes: when someone else says,"Beep" I must respond "Beep, beep/Sheep in a jeep," for example. But Carle's visuals are always there in my imagination.

One time my daughter needed help with a science fair project about the ocean. I cried, "Secret weapon!" and ran to the bag of giftwrap for all the blue and green tissue I could find. We did a little decoupage to look like seawater all around the edges of her board, and it came out handsomely.

Thank you, sir!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:42 AM on May 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

posted by humbug at 5:45 AM on May 27, 2021


I read Caterpillar to my daughter in utero and, obviously, afterwards. We have video of her at about two years old "reading" (reciting) the book to her infant brother. Each of them sleeps every night under an Eric Carle quilt (Caterpillar and Brown Bear) made for them by their grandmother.

Last night, on our family walk, my daughter gave me a heart-shaped leaf which had a caterpillar egg fixed to it and told me to put it in the woods so it could have plenty of leaves to eat rather than sausages and lollipops and pickles and ice creams that would give it a stomachache.
posted by gauche at 5:47 AM on May 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

In Dutch, the Very Hungry Caterpillar is called Rupsje Nooitgenoeg: Little Caterpillar Never-Enough.

In German it's Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt: the little caterpillar never-satiated. Which is a cute name but I mean, read the book, it's just inaccurate.

I honestly thought Carle had left this world long ago given the copyright dates on our copies of Brown Bear and VHC and Do You Want To Be My Friend. I'm glad today to learn he had a long life that seems to have gotten kinder to him over time. As a parent and as an ex-child, I owe him deeply.

posted by saturday_morning at 5:58 AM on May 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

Forever ago, I was lucky enough to see him speak while I was in graduate (library) school. He was everything you would hope, the twinkling eye, the warmth and charisma. I am not a children's librarian, but I still consider it one of the most important things I did during my program.
posted by librarianamy at 6:11 AM on May 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

posted by ceejaytee at 6:22 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by Melismata at 6:23 AM on May 27, 2021

My brother's wife threw my spouse (Comrade Doll on MeFi) a surprise baby shower years ago that was Very Hungry Caterpillar themed. Being from Romania, with no awareness of that book, she entered the room, took in the decor and said, flummoxed, "Um.. What a cute snake..."

posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:24 AM on May 27, 2021 [9 favorites]

posted by LobsterMitten at 7:05 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by doctornemo at 7:05 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by chinesefood at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2021

This bums me out. It seems like only yesterday when I'd read Brown Bear to my daughter but considering that she just graduated from college that is starting to have been a long time ago.
posted by drstrangelove at 7:26 AM on May 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

What a treasure he was. So many great books that I read my kid a million times, but none so great as From Head to Toe -- a secret weapon for parents with energetic and jumpy kids. I'd read it, and when I got to each part that said "Can you do it?" I'd have my kid yell "I can do it!" while doing the movement. A godsend on days when I was tired but he needed to get some energy out, especially when he was little enough to be in the "again, again" stage!
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:36 AM on May 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

posted by May Kasahara at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by dlugoczaj at 8:04 AM on May 27, 2021

One of the treasured videos on my phone is the Randomlet's kindergarten class reciting piecemeal Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in Mandarin.

posted by Quasirandom at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

"Yes, writing is another way to reestablish old feelings, and to reacquaint yourself with old friends who may be long gone. Pulling stories together, leaving out the nonessential, recapturing the inner self, is hard work, but rewarding and refreshing."

-Eric Carle, on writing a book of short stories, his first "older book"
Rest peacefully, and thank you.
posted by kaelynski at 8:23 AM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

posted by exlotuseater at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2021


When I travel to countries where English isn't the main language, I seek out bookstores and bring home versions of children's books that my kids know by heart, in a new language. (When I read Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt to my younger child, then about 8, she said, "Mom, people don't really talk like that!" So much for trying to expand my kids' linguistic horizons.)

I visited the Czech Republic for work several years ago and was surprised that I couldn't find translations of any of the super popular American baby book titles when I looked through book stores in central Prague. I ended up bringing home a Czech version of Frog and Toad are Friends, which is a too advanced to puzzle out translations for fun--but still pretty cool.

Fast forward a couple of years, and a beloved coworker in Prague announced that he was going to become a father. I saw him in the US shortly before the baby's birth and gave him two board books that were favorites with my kids: Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He wasn't familiar with either, but they both ended up being big hits with his daughter.

The last time I saw said beloved coworker, he brought me a present in return: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, in Czech. A 48 years old professional lady, standing the middle of a big global conference, 300 of our colleagues milling around, and yes, I cried like a leaky bucket.

What powerful sweetness that can affect so many people, so strongly, in so many ways, through so many years. Thank you for that magic, Mr. Carle.
posted by Sublimity at 8:28 AM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

The Syracuse NY newspaper site reprinted a 2015 column about Eric Carle reconnecting with a local childhood friend.
posted by maurice at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

A sweet story shared by shared on facebook about an interaction with Eric Carle. I'll post the text below also for those not on the ol' FB:

Eric Carle, the incredible children’s book author, has passed away... Many years ago my chonky cat Julian - I called him The Shmoo - was let out of my apartment by an irresponsible and perhaps, in hindsight, diabolical landlord of my rent stabilized apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was absolutely devastated, of course, so I posted homemade fliers: Have You Seen My Cat? - with several of The Shmoo’s photos, and offering a substantial reward, ALL over the neighborhood.
Shortly after my fliers were up I received a phone call from a very concerned man telling me that HE was going out to look for my cat. Every day, for five days, morning and night, this unknown man called me to ask after my lost cat, and every day he reported back to me about his own search... He was so unbelievably kind to me, while I sobbed into my landline telephone... I told him that I had no education, and no career, and no family, and a boyfriend who was all Boy, and No friend... The Shmoo, my rescued dumpster cat, was my Everything... I talked and talked and talked about about myself, and he endlessly listened...
Eventually, my extremely overweight cat was returned to me from the kitchen of the Italian restaurant a block away. He spent the whole time there, eating ravioli and meatballs. Aside from being four pounds heavier and stinking of roasted garlic and stewed tomatoes, he was fine.
The first person I called with the great news was the nice man on the phone!
He was as happy as I was about the return of The Shmoo, and he asked if he could meet him... Normally I’d be like, “Nah bro, you ain’t gettin’ my address”, but this unknown, older gentleman was so kind and so supportive of me - like the dad that I’d never had - that I said I’d love to meet him, and have him meet my fat, beloved kitty...
When he arrived, because I knew he loved cats, and not much else about him, and because I wanted to express my gratitude, I gave him a huge stuffed cat from FAO Schwartz as a gift, and after he met The Shmoo, as he was leaving, he handed me a thin envelope...
Inside, was a beautiful book, called ‘Have You Seen My Cat’, and it was signed by the author, Eric Carle.
The sensitive, selfless person who listened to my sobbing, for days on end, called me twice a day, and physically searched all of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for my chubby lost cat, was the famous children’s book author Eric Carle.
The revelation was so stunning to me that terminal shyness set in, and I never phoned him again.
To be treated like a daughter, when I’d never had a father, and by such an important person, who cared so much about a kitty that I loved so dearly, meant more to me than I was able to express at that time... All these years later, it still means just as much.
Many years later, when The Shmoo eventually passed away, I had him cremated with an Eric Carle postcard of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’.
I’ve never told this story before, because it was so precious of an experience that I kept it to myself.
I’m sharing it today, because I have so much love for him, and I always will, and because I can’t stop thinking of him. I will never, ever forget him.
For five whole days, I had the world’s greatest dad.
‘Have You Seen MY Eric Carle?’

posted by dismas at 9:56 AM on May 27, 2021 [31 favorites]

i love reading brown bear brown bear to my 9 month old.

posted by dismas at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by buffalo at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 10:42 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by calgirl at 10:42 AM on May 27, 2021

posted by TedW at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2021


Today Is Monday was my very first favorite book.
posted by all about eevee at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2021

A caterpillar that goes into a cocoon?
posted by Phanx at 1:07 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

and that facebook post made it very dusty in here...
posted by coppertop at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 2:48 PM on May 27, 2021

From an interview:

"My publisher and I fought bitterly over the stomach-ache scene... the caterpillar, you'll recall, feasts on cake, ice cream, salami, pie, cheese, sausage, and so on. After this banquet I intended for him to proceed immediately to his metamorphosis, but my publisher insisted that he suffer an episode of nausea first - that some punishment follow his supposed over-eating. This disgusted me. It ran entirely contrary to the message of the book. The caterpillar is, after all, very hungry. He has recognized an immense appetite within him and has indulged it, and the experience transforms him, betters him. Including the punitive stomachache ruined the effect. It compromised the book."

Or as I saw on tumblr: where's The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Director's Cut?

posted by subdee at 7:47 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry to say that interview is fake. I got fooled too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:03 PM on May 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I just came back here to post that correction! Sigh, thanks for catching it right away joe's spleen.
posted by subdee at 7:47 AM on May 28, 2021


I can never refer to just "a butterfly", it is always "a beautiful butterfly". A sad day.
posted by drnick at 4:05 PM on May 28, 2021

posted by mcbeth at 6:48 PM on May 28, 2021


I read Brown Bear almost everyday to my babies at work.

Someone above mentioned Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. That's been a favorite the last few weeks too. It's so much fun to hear a 15 mo old say Boom Boom after I say Chicka Chicka and pause.
posted by kathrynm at 9:08 PM on May 28, 2021

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