June 25 – Happy Birthday, Eric Carle

Posted on June 25, 2015

The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The Very Busy Spider.

Pancakes, Pancakes!

All About Arthur (An Absolutely Absurd Ape).

Eric Carle wrote and illustrated all of those books, and many, many more, and he illustrated a whole lot of books that he didn't write.

Carle was born on this date in 1929, in New York, to parents who had come to America from Germany. His mom was so homesick for Germany, the family returned to that nation in or around 1935, when little Eric was just six years old.

Do you know what was happening in Germany in 1935?

Adolph Hitler was the ruler. The nation was rearming, in violation of the treaty that had ended World War I. The Nuremberg Laws were passed, causing discrimination toward Jewish people. The Nazi flag – with the swastika – was made the German national flag.

It was a bad time to move to Germany, and it was about to get bad for the Carle family.

Eric Carle's dad was soon drafted into the German army. He lived through the entire war, but when Germany lost the war, he was taken prisoner by the forces of the Soviet Union. Two years later, Eric's father was finally able to go home to Germany and his father. He was sick, semi-starved, and weighed only 85 pounds.

Eric Carle himself was forced to take part in World War II, also. The German government made boy ages 15 and older dig trenches, so for a year or two, he had to dig trenches every day with other teens and with Russian prisoners. He saw people being killed just a few feet away. When he was finally able to go home, his house was the only one still standing in his neighborhood – but the roof, windows, and doors were all gone.

That is an example of really bad timing, but Eric Carle remembered America, and he missed it and wanted to return there someday. Finally, in 1952, age 23, Eric Carle arrived in New York City with only $40. But he was able to get a job as a graphic designer for The New York Times! He was drafted into the U.S. Navy for a few years – he was stationed in German! – but when he was released from that stint, he went back to NYC to work with art and publishing.

It was educator/author Bill Martin, Jr., who noticed Carle's artwork and lured him to illustrate a book he was writing. And from there, Carle never looked back. He started a museum of picture book art, and he has won many awards, and he loves what he does!

You know what happens when you write a
really, really popular book?

You find yourself in a world filled with your
really, really popular main character:

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