Eric Carle, author and illustrator of the beloved children’s classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” has passed away at the age of 91, according to a statement from his official Instagram account on Wednesday.
First published in 1969, the book features a caterpillar that makes its way through many different foods on different days of the week before finally emerging as a butterfly.
With its signature artwork and subtle educational concepts, the 224-word book has been translated into 66 languages and sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share that Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many other beloved classics, passed away on Sunday, May 23 at the age of 91,” the statement read without elaborating.
Our hearts are heavy tonight with the loss of our beloved co-founder Eric Carle who has passed away. He was our friend, our inspiration and a creative visionary to generations of artists and children. #RememberingEricCarle pic.twitter.com/kqdzZgl1Kv
– Eric Carle Museum (@carlemuseum) May 26, 2021
It continued, “When asked why he thinks The Very Hungry Caterpillar has remained popular for so long, Carle said,“ I think it’s a book of hope. Children need hope. You, little insignificant caterpillar, can grow into a beautiful butterfly and fly out into the world with your talent. ”
“Thank you Eric Carle for sharing your great talent with so many generations of young readers,” it read.
Carle has written and illustrated more than 70 books for young children, including “The Grouchy Ladybug”, “The Very Busy Spider” and “The Very Lonely Firefly”.
‘Oh I can do that’
“Our hearts are heavy tonight with the loss of our beloved co-founder Eric Carle who has passed away,” read a tweet from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
The museum described Carle as “our friend, our inspiration and a creative visionary for generations of artists and children”.
Carle’s signature collage illustrations are mostly acrylic paint on plain tissue paper. However, the paint is applied in different ways – through bushes of different sizes, sometimes with fingers, and sometimes stamped on with sponges or even tapestry pieces.
Ah Eric Carle. No one ever succeeded in such a strong combination of bright living and dignity in work. The books still feel like clear statements about design and a deep love for form. All I ever wanted to make was a cover as good as this one. REST IN PEACE. pic.twitter.com/9j09mMrqvW
– Jon Classes (@burstofbeaden) May 27, 2021
“Some kids have said to me, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ I consider that the highest compliment, ”Carle wrote on his official website describing his work.
“For me, pictures need writing, and writing requires pictures. A kid once called me a photo writer, and that’s a good way to describe me,” Carle wrote.
Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1929 to German immigrants, Carle was brought back to their native country with his parents at the age of 6, spending his childhood in Germany during the Nazi era. He later said that at the age of twelve or thirteen, a drawing teacher secretly introduced him to reproductions of abstract, expressionist works that the Nazi regime had banned as ‘degenerate’.
“My green lion, spotted donkey and other animals painted in the ‘wrong’ colors were really born that day 70 years ago,” Carle recalled decades later, according to biographical material posted online by Penguin Books.
We are very sorry to hear that Eric Carle has passed away. For so many of us, this was the first page of one of the first books we’ve ever read. 🐛🍎🍐🍑🍓🍊🍰🍦🥒🧀🍭🥧🌭🧁🍉🥬🦋 pic.twitter.com/twdKakO3GB
– Orkney Library (@OrkneyLibrary) May 27, 2021
During World War II, his father was drafted into the German army and imprisoned in Russia, the illustrator told The New York Times in an interview in 2007.
Carle, a teenager by then, survived the aerial bombardment of Stuttgart and avoided military service, but was drafted to dig trenches on a defense line in West Germany.
He studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Stuttgart, Germany, and returned to the United States in his early twenties as a graphic designer and artist. He always wanted to return, and in 1952, “with a nice wallet in hand and forty dollars in his pocket, he arrived in New York,” the biography reads on his website.
We remember children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle. The US Postal Service issued this stamp in honor of its story “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in 2006. It was designed by Derry Noye and is now in our @PostalMuseum. © USPS; all rights reserved. pic.twitter.com/E7Jx4J2reh
– Smithsonian (@smithsonian) May 27, 2021
Carle was soon drafted into the US Army and stationed in Germany – but according to the Times, he never spoke about his childhood under the Nazi government.
After military service, Carle worked as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times, then spent years as the art director of an advertising agency before being asked to illustrate “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” (1967).
‘Wonder and joy’
Carle said in several interviews that he preferred bright and soothing colors after so many grays and camouflage greens from the war years.
At the age of 87, Carle embarked on a series of cardboard and abstract collages of found objects with images of angels, which he dedicated to Swiss-born German artist Paul Klee, known for his own drawings and paintings of angels.
We are deeply saddened by the death of the beloved author and illustrator, Eric Carle, a wonderful “neighbor” and special visitor to the Make-Believe neighborhood. We know his legacy will live on as future generations will continue to be inspired by his timeless books. pic.twitter.com/1KcuY4SQei
– Fred Rogers Productions (@FredRogersPro) May 27, 2021
Tributes to the author poured in on social media, including from the rich and famous.
“Eric Carle has passed away – but he left us the unforgettable Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear – books that I have read to my children and now to my grandchildren,” tweeted actress Mia Farrow. “Loving thoughts with his family and a lot of gratitude to Mr. Carle.”
US former first lady Michelle Obama tweeted: “His work has been read (and re-read and reread) tens of millions of times over the years, the gift of one generation to the next. Thank you @EricCarle for filling our lives with so much wonder and joy. “
( Jowharwith AFP, REUTERS)