Who doesn't love The Very Hungry Caterpillar? We didn't have a copy of this at home, but I clearly remember my preschool teacher reading it to us. With naptime afterwards, it was the perfect afternoon. And apparently, author Eric Carle is just as charming as his books. It's the Caterpillar's 40th anniversary and Carle, at 80, is still a champion of beautifully illustrated, adorable books for children.
"My friends, my family, my editors, my publisher, we all wondered why it's been so successful," Carle says. "It is a book about hope. If you're an insignificant caterpillar, you can grow up to be a big butterfly in the world."
Oh my lord, I think my heart just grew three sizes.
But his life hasn't been all caterpillars and brown bears. Growing up in Nazi Germany, Carle's father was drafted (and was later sent to a Russian prison camp) while the family lived in fear of being bombed. One day, a Nazi officer came and told Carle's mother, "Your son tomorrow morning has to report to the railroad station, we'll give him a bazooka." Thankfully, she didn't let him go, and Carle survived. He moved to America in 1952 and would publish his first book at the age of 38.
About his books, Carle says:
"With my books, I try to recapture a period I should've had and didn't—for more fun, more nonsense, more humor."
It's a good thing to get out of the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Also, Carle sounds absolutely wonderful in person as well as in print:
"He's a delightful host whose stories are punctuated by affectionate smiles. His house in Florida is bathed in color. The sun pours into the kitchen and big windows peer out to the blue coast. His desk is covered in scraps of rainbow tissue paper. He makes sure that every fan who writes to him gets a response. He also spends a great deal of time maintaining the country's first picture-book museum, which opened six years ago in Amherst, Mass...He hasn't written a book in two years, but he says that's only because he's content with taking it easy. He likes to sleep in, play solitaire and go for walks."
It's the ideal life for a children's writer--having such success and getting to live your life with your family. Plus, I really want to visit the picture-book museum now, and to write Carle a letter. (I'd get a response!)
I think this afternoon I'll have a graham cracker, some milk, and curl up with a hungry caterpillar.