Eric Carle, the author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and numerous other best-selling children’s books, has died. He was 91.
“It is with heavy hearts that we share that Eric Carle, author & illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many other beloved classics, passed away on 23rd at the age of 91,” his team posted to his Twitter account.
“Thank you for sharing your talent with generations of young readers,” they added.
Carle died on Sunday at his Northampton, Mass. summer studio, according to The New York Times. It also reported that his son, Rolf, said he died from kidney failure.
From the Eric Carle Team: It is with heavy hearts that we share that Eric Carle, author & illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many other beloved classics, passed away on 23rd at the age of 91.
Thank you for sharing your talent with generations of young readers. pic.twitter.com/wuMe4eqVXo
— eric carle (@ericcarle) May 26, 2021
The children’s book creator illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also authored, and sold over 152 million copies of his books worldwide. Perhaps best known for “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” the 1969 picture book alone has been translated into 66 languages and sold over 50 million copies.
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Carle and his parents moved to Germany when he was 6 years old, where he later graduated from the prestigious State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. Following his dream to return to America, Carle made his way back to New York in 1952 where he arrived with $40 and his portfolio. He soon became a graphic designer for the New York Times in the promotion department.
Later, he worked at an advertising agency as an art director. Intrigued by Carle’s image of a red lobster in an advertisement, author Bill Martin Jr. commissioned him to illustrate what would become “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” This set him down the path to becoming a beloved children’s author and known as as the “picture writer.” Carle’s unique style was distinguished by his use of collage technique, as seen by the added dimension of twinkling lights in “The Very Lonely Firefly” or the lifelike sound of a cricket’s chirp in “The Very Quiet Cricket.”
An animated collection of five of his short stories was released by Disney in 1993.
“I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born,” Carle said in a statement on his website. “Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”
Carle is survived by his son and daughter. His wife Bobbie, with whom he founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, died in 2015.