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Picture Books Author of the Month
Eric Carle

25 June 1929 -- ???

Eric Carle was born on June 25, 1929 in Syracuse, New York to Erich W. and Johanna (Oelschlaeger) Carle. The Carles moved to the United States from Germany before their only son was born. Eric has one sister, Christa, who is 21 years younger. While the family lived in New York, his father worked in a washing machine factory, and his mother was a homemaker.

Eric has fond memories of kindergarten. He had a great teacher, who provided a warm encouraging classroom for her students. Thinking back on the classroom, he recalls, " large sheets of paper, the sun streaming in. I don't remember my teacher but she must have been a wonderful teacher. She called my parents to tell them I was talented and they should nurture this." [6]

Life for the Carles changed drastically in 1935. They left the United States and settled in Stuttgart, Germany because his mother was homesick. They shared a large house that was divided into flats with aunts, uncles, cousins,and grandparents.

It did not take long for Eric to forget his English when he started classes the following fall because his classes were taught solely in German. The atmosphere in his new school was drastically different. His new first grade teacher would often strike his hand as a punishment for misdeeds. He began to hate school in the new environment and want to return to the United States.

Reading was not something Carle was tremendously interested in as a child. When he lived in the United States, he enjoyed reading Mickey Mouse and Flash Gordon. Max und Moritz and Struwwelpeter became his interest once he moved to Germany.

Like many European children of the time, Carle's childhood was filled with the sounds of air raid sirens, exploding munitions, and fear as World War II started. Stuttgart was a major target for Allied air raids. In September of 1939, Erich was drafted into the Nazi army after the German invasion of Poland. He would not return for eight years.

When Eric was 14 in 1943, he and his classmates were sent away from Stuttgart for their safety. He lived with a family in southwest Germany for little over a year. He was evacuated once again at that time. This time he was sent close to the battle front to dig trenches with other boys his age. They were assisted by Russian and Italian prisoners and Polish slave workers. Eric was even wounded during one fire fight, but he was sent home after a short hospitalization. A few weeks later, a German officer visited the family home to inform Eric's mother that he was being drafted into the army. His mother was polite, but refused to let him go.

Germany surrendered in the spring of 1945. Eric's father was declared missing at the end of the war, but word reached his family in 1947 that he was alive and being held as a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union. The family rejoiced and awaited his return. When he did finally arrive home later that year, he weighed 80 pounds and was a broken man.

Eric found a position with the American occupation forces in Germany. He worked in their headquarters. The job provided access to American delicacies such as peanut butter sandwiches, lumps of butter, leftover bits of steak, and desserts. He would often eat as much as possible and bring some home for his family.

After the war, Eric's school in Stuttgart was repaired, and he returned to classes. He still hated school, except for art. With the encouragement of a teacher, he entered the Akademie der Bidlenden K'unste (Academy of Commercial Arts) in Stuttgart. After graduating from the academy in 1950, he began to work as an art director for a fashion magazine. In 1952, he decided it was time to return to the United States.

Carle arrived in New York that spring. An acquaintance had told him that he should attend the New York Art Director's Show that year. It was there that he saw the work of Leo Lionni, a young art director for Fortune magazine, who later became an acclaimed children's author. Lionni was friendly and helpful to Carle when he interviewed him for a position. He also helped Carle get his first job, which was as an art director for the New York Times.

Five months later, Carle was drafted into the United States armed services. Since he had been born in the United States, he was an American citizen, which meant that he had to fulfill his term of service in the army even though he had spent much of his life in another country. He was sent to basic training and was shipped out to Germany because of his German speaking skills.

Carle was pleased when he was stationed in Stuttgart. He was even allowed to live with his parents. It was while he was stationed in Germany that he met and married his first wife Dorothea Wohlenberg in June of 1954. The couple also had their first child Rolf at this time. After returning to the United States they would give birth to a daughter named Cirsten. The marriage, unfortunately did not last. They divorced in 1964.

Two years later, with his term of service completed, Carle returned to the United States with his young family. Carle returned to his position at the New York Times, but he moved on to an advertising agency called L.W. Frohlich & Company, where he worked as an art director, not long after. The only problem with this new position was that he quickly learned that he did not like advertising. "I had come to the conclusion that I didn't want to sit in meetings, write memos, entertain clients, and catch commuter trains. I simply wanted to create pictures." [3]He opted to quit the job and take a position as a freelance artist.

It was about this time that Carle was contacted by Bill Martin, Jr. Martin had seen some of Carle's commercial art work and liked it. He asked Carle to illustrate a book he had written entitled Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. The collaboration, which was published in 1967, was a great success.

Pleased with this success, Carle decided that he should work on a book of his own. That first book 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo was published in 1968. It was one year later that the book he is most famous for was published. That book was The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar had an interesting beginning. One day Carle was playing with a hole puncher. "I looked at the holes I had punched in the paper, and I thought 'bookworm,'" says Carle. [6] He called his editor, but she was not overly excited about the idea. She suggested the idea of a caterpillar, which is how the book came about.

Carle married Barbara Morrison, a teacher, in 1973. They live in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Carle has a studio not far away. They spend their summers in the nearby Berkshire hills.

Carle's illustrations are different from most picture books. Instead of drawing or painting the graphics, he uses a technique called collage. He starts with a large piece of tissue paper, which he paints with different colors. Then, he imprints a pattern on the paper using all sorts of things, such as sponges, cloth, or carpet. He then stores them in a drawer until they are needed. They are later cut up and used for illustrations.

Since 1968, Carle has illustrated and written more than 70 books. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 17 million copies, and many of his other books have also been translated.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Eric Carle. Flora and Tiger: 19 Very Short Stories From my Life; Philomel Books: New York, 1997
2) "Carle, Eric, June 25, 1929-, Author and Illustrator", Education Paperback Association http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/Carle_Eric.html.
3) Anne Commire. Something About the Author #4; Gale Research: Detroit, Mich., 1973.
4) "Eric Carle", Children's Book Council; http://www.cbcbooks.org/html/ericcarle.html.
5) "Eric Carle, 1929-", Gale Literary Databases;http://www.galenet.com.
6) Lauries Lanzen Harris. Biography Today: Author Series # 1; Omnigraphics, Inc.: Detroit, Mich., 1995.
7) Carol Hurst. "Featured Author: Eric Carle". Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site; http://www.carolhurst.com/newsletters/24dnewsletters.htm.
8) The Official Eric Carle Web Site; http://www.eric-carle.com.
9) Pendergast, Sara and Tom Pendergast (eds.). St. James Guide to Children's Writers; St. James Press: Detroit, Mich., 1999.

Titles by Carle
BdBk-Carle 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo: A Counting Book (1996) -- Each car on the train has one more zoo animal that the one before, from the first car with an elephant to the last on with ten birds.

E-Carle Do You Want to Be My Friend? (1971) -- A mouse searches everywhere for a friend.

E-Carle Draw Me a Star (1992) -- An artist's drawing of a star begins the creation of an entire universe around him as each successive pictured object requests that he draw more.

E-Carle Dream Snow (2000) -- In this musical and sound effects book, a farmer celebrates Christmas after the first snowfall.

E-Carle Eric Carle's Animals, Animals (1989) -- An illustrated collection of poems by a vadiety of authors describing the peculiarities of pets and wild and domestic animals.

E-Carle From Head to Tow (1997) -- This book encourages the reader to exercise by following the movements of various animals. The instructions are presented in answer and question format.

E-Carle/E-P-CAR The Grouchy Ladybug (1977) -- A grouchy ladybug who is looking for a fight challenges everyone she meets regardless of their size or strength.

E-Carle Have You Seen My Cat (1973) -- A young boy encounters all sorts of cats while searching for the one he lost.

E-Carle Hello, Red Fox (1998) -- Guests at Little Frog's birthday party include the red fox, the purple butterfly, the orange cat, and other colorful animals. The illustrations are designed to demonstrate the concept of complimentary colors.

E-CAR A House for Hermit Crab (1987) -- A hermit crab who has outgrown his old shell moves into a new one, which he decorates and enhances with the various sea creatures he meets in his travels.

E-Carle Little Cloud (2001) -- A little cloud becomes all sorts of things -- sheep, an airplane, trees, a hat -- before joining other clouds and raining.

E-Carle The Mixed-Up Chameleon (1984) -- A bored chameleon wishes it could be more like all the other animals it sees, but soon decides it would rather just be itself.

E-Carle My Apron (1994) -- A child helps Uncle Adam plaster the chimney.

E-Carle Pancakes, Pancakes! (1989) -- By cutting and grinding the wheat for flour, Jack starts from scratch to help make his breakfast pancake.

E-Carle Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me (1986) -- Monica's father fulfills her request for the moon by taking it down after it is small enough to carry, but it continues to change in size.

E-Carle/E-P-CAR Rooster's Off to See the World (1972) -- A simple introduction to the meaning of numbers and sets as a rooster, on his way to see the world, is joined by fourteen animals along the way.

E-CAR The Tiny Seed (1970) -- A simple description of a flowering plant's life cycle through the seasons.

E-Carle Today is Monday (1993) -- Each day of the week brings new food until on Sunday all the world's children can come and eat it up.

BdBk-Carle/E-Carle The Very Busy Spider (1984) -- The farm animals try to divert a busy little spider from spinning her web, but she persists and produces a thing of both beauty and usefulness.

E-Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1987) -- Follows the progress of a hungry little caterpillar as he eats his way through a varied and very large quantity of food until, full at last, he forms a cocoon around himself and goes to sleep.

E-Carle Walter the Baker (1995) -- By order of the Duke, Walter the baker must invent a tasty roll through which the rising sun can shine three times.

J-92-Carle Flora and Tiger: 19 Very Short Stories From My Life (1997) -- The author recalls experiences from his childhood in Germany and his later life in the United States through tales that are all connected to various animals in some way.

Titles Illustrated by Carle
E-Buckley The Foolish Tortoise (1985) by Richard Buckley -- A tortoise realizes the need for a shell after several scary encounters.

E-Buckley The Greedy Python (1985) by Richard Buckly -- A greedy python eats to excess, finally eating himself.

E-Martin Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1983) by Bill Martin, Jr. -- A group of children see a variety of animals, each one a different color, while their mother looks at them.

E-Martin Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (1991) by Bill Martin, Jr. -- Zoo animals from polar bear to walrus make their destinctive sounds for each other while children imitate the sounds for the zookeeper.

E-MEN The Scarecrow Clock (1971) by George Mendoza -- Readers can see how a clock's hour hand and miniute hand work together by following the directions given by the scarecrow.

Videos Based on Titles by Carle
J-VID-VERY The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories by Eric Carle (1993) -- Five of Eric Carle's most popular stories are presented.

"Carle, Eric, June 25, 1929-, Author and Illustrator" Educational Paperback Association (http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/Carle_Eric.html) -- This site provides a brief autobiography of the author as well as a list of the works to which he has contributed.

The Official Eric Carle Web Site (http://www.eric-carle.com) -- This is the official website for Eric Carle. It is maintained and updated by him.

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