Eric Carle is dead. The American author and illustrator, who cradled generations of children – himself had two – with his picture book The Caterpillar that makes holes, died at the age of 91, his relatives announced on Wednesday. Cult work with holes in the pages, The Caterpillar that makes holes recounts the adventures of this little insect whose appetite continues to grow. In the space of a week, the caterpillar bites an apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, five oranges, a chocolate cake, cheese… until it becomes a magnificent multicolored butterfly. The book, published in 1969, has been translated into 66 languages, and sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we announce that Eric Carle, author and designer of The Caterpillar that makes holes and many other great classics, died Sunday, May 23, at the age of 91, ”his team announced on social networks.
Eric Carle grew up in Nazi Germany
Born in New York State in 1929 to German parents, Eric Carle grew up in Nazi Germany, a world he called “colorless”, on American NPR radio. He graduated from a prestigious art school in Stuttgart.
During World War II, his father was drafted into the German army and taken prisoner in Russia, the illustrator told New York Times in an interview in 2007. Eric Carle, then a teenager, survived the aerial bombardment of Stuttgart and avoided military service, but was mobilized to dig trenches on a defensive line in western Germany. He always wanted to go back to the United States, and in 1952, “with a fine wallet in his hand and forty dollars in his pocket, he arrived in New York,” reads his website.
The young man was soon drafted into the US military and sent to Germany, but according to the Times, he never spoke of his youth under the Nazi government. After his military service, he worked as a graphic designer in the promotion department of New York Times, then held the position of artistic director in an advertising agency. He wrote his first children’s books in the mid-1960s, including the very famous Brown bear, brown bear, tell me what you see. The illustrator, known for his use of very bright colors, recounted drawing his inspiration from walks in nature with his father. “He tore the bark from a tree, and showed me all the creatures that lived there,” he confided on his site.
Its caterpillar carries a message
On his illustration technique, the collages, Eric Carle claimed to have “invented” nothing. “Some children have already said to me ‘Ah that, I can do it’. I take that as the best compliment, ”he said. Paul Klee, Picasso, Matisse were some of his favorite artists.
Many people expressed their grief on Wednesday evening, paying tribute to the author, who has marked millions of children. “Eric Carle is dead – but he left us The Caterpillar that makes holes, Brown bear, brown bear – books that I read to my children and now to my grandchildren, ”tweeted actress Mia Farrow.
Asked why this book has remained so popular, Eric Carle confided: “I think it’s a book of hope. Children need hope. You, insignificant little caterpillar, you can become a beautiful butterfly and fly around the world with your skill. In total, Eric Carle will write more than 70 books, sold more than 150 million copies. Many of them have been translated into French.