Catch up with Eric Carle, the author and artist of beloved children’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” to hear how nature inspires his colorful art and our adventure-ready kid’s collaboration.
Whether you grew up near the mountains, the ocean, or somewhere in between, chances are you learned about the magic of a caterpillar’s transformation through the vibrant children’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.™”
Since artist and author Eric Carle’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar™” was first published in 1969, it has been translated into over 60 languages. From one generation to the next, its universal message of a caterpillar’s hungry journey to becoming a butterfly continues to teach young explorers around the world.
Author and artist, Eric Carle.
Now 90-years-old, Carle still views a walk through the forest or looking out at the sea with a child-like curiosity and fascination. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Eric Carle’s immigrant parents returned home to Germany right before World War II. Despite having a difficult childhood, he found joy in art, graduated from the Academy of Visual Arts, and returned to the U.S.A to start his career. The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ was Carle’s first children’s book, and his colorful art has been sparking wonder and smiles in kids ever since.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the beloved children’s book, Teva teamed up with Eric Carle for a special Teva x The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ kid’s collection. We caught up with the author and artist to learn about how he went from working at an ad agency to writing children’s books and why he’s still inspired to create today.
Tell us about how you became an artist and started writing books for children.
Eric Carle: I have always loved to draw and have been making pictures ever since I was a very young child. In Germany, I studied art and graphic design. Then in New York, I went on to work as a graphic designer for “The New York Times,” and later as the art director for an advertising agency. But my career as a children’s book illustrator did not actually begin until I was nearly 40 years old.
In the mid-1960s, [children’s book author] Bill Martin Jr saw an ad of a red lobster that I had designed and asked me to illustrate his book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” It was such an inspiring experience, to do something special that would show a child the joy to be found in books. This really changed my life. Almost without any planning, I started on my true course in life—being a creator of books for children.
How have your personal experiences inspired the themes of your art and books?
I have always, and still, am very much inspired by nature. When I was a very young child, my father used to take me for walks in the woods. He would peel back the bark of a tree and show me the creatures who lived there. I have very fond memories of these special times with my father, and in a way, I honor him with my books and my interest in animals and insects.
What are your favorite ways to explore nature and become inspired?
When I was younger, I enjoyed walking in nature and spending time in my garden. I now live in the Florida Keys with a lovely view of the ocean. I am often appreciating the expansive blue water and the birds who live nearby.
You’ve created more than 70 books! What keeps you continually inspired?
Nature has been a source of inspiration from the very beginning. But inspiration and ideas for books can come from all kinds of places. Some ideas for my books have been there, inside me, in my unconscious perhaps, for a long time and others just come to me quickly. I’ll think about a design concept and I’ll get a spark or the beginning of an idea that way. Usually, it’s a combination of things: memory, design, dreams, experiences, and things I’ve seen or heard.
We love the colorful world of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many of your books. Why is color important in your storytelling and art?
I grew up during the Second World War in Germany and have painful memories from my childhood years. In some ways, I feel my use of bright colors in my pictures is a kind of an antidote to the grays and browns of my childhood. I absolutely love color and I feel it is unfortunate that we, as humans, are limited to the range of colors that we can see with our eyes, unlike some insects and other creatures.
Congrats on the 50th anniversary of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar!” How does it feel to see your stories reach so many generations of children around the world?
It is a tremendous honor. I feel very fortunate to be able to do the work that I love and to have my work be loved by so many others around the world.
Tell us about The Very Hungry Caterpillar collab Teva styles. What is the story behind the special artistic details, prints, and colors?
It was a natural collaboration of my pictures and designs from The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Teva’s children’s shoes for playing and exploring outdoors.
What was the most fun part about translating your art onto shoes?
It is a delight to see one’s work appear in different forms. How fun to see the image of the caterpillar appear on a shoe that is walking down a trail or a path in the forest! I would never have dreamed this to be possible.