Color - as much color as possible, forever, against the gray of war: that is Eric Carle's patent recipe for his stories, which have stood the test of a lifetime of authorship. The US-American graphic artist has become famous as an author and illustrator of children's books that stand the test of time. Their special magic always appeals to children all over the world.
Life and work of Eric Carle
Early promotion and a fateful journey
When Eric Carle was born in 1929, his parents were emigrants living in Syracuse, New York State. He liked it here: A preschool teacher discovered he had a gift for drawing, and his parents encouraged him. But because his mother was very homesick, the young family went back to their home town - Feuerbach near Stuttgart - in 1935. Young Eric did not like it here at all, partly because of the corporal punishments at school.
What Eric Carle remembers to this day are the walks with his father. His father opened his eyes to the world of small animals - mice, worms and insects. Many of these animals are the heroes of the stories the author has devised.
As soon as the war broke out, the father was drafted. When he returned after a long captivity, he was only the shell of a human being. The bond that bound him and his son was destroyed. The young man graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart before returning to America in 1952 with 40 dollars and a portfolio in his luggage.
Fascination for collage technique
A German teacher had shown Eric Carle examples of "degenerate art", and the young graphic artist's fascination with Picasso's collage technique remained with him. In his new home he made the acquaintance of Leo Lionnis, who wrote such immortal stories for children as "Frederick" or "Swimmy" and illustrated them with collage technique. The interest in this kind of graphic art grew even stronger with him.
Eric Carle married and had two children. After ten years of agency work, he went into business for himself as a graphic designer. One day, when he was commissioned to illustrate a story for children, the course was set anew for him: At the age of 38 he started writing stories and designing picture books himself.
Understanding the world - and the book
The author and illustrator's children's books are all more than just a story, more than just picture books: they appeal to several senses at once. The little caterpillar Nimmersatt, for example, eats its way through the book and leaves holes. The little spider spins noticeable webs, you can hear the little cricket's chirping and in "The Little Mouse is Looking for a Friend" the children can always guess which animal will be seen on the next page: The tail is always already visible on the front page.
Eric Carle calls himself a picture poet and describes his works as "half toy, half book". The illustrator always creates the pictures from brightly painted, cut out and artfully assembled tissue paper. This collage technique is also used by other artists, but the bright, shining colours in Carle's picture books are unmistakable.
Not all of the 70 or so children's books by Eric Carle, who has received various awards for his work, are available any more. Here you can find an overview of his most successful picture books, some of which are always reprinted and appear in countless variations: