We’ve often delved into the nostalgia of children’s literature as inspiration for this blog, so children’s book illustration fits right into that vein of thinking. Or at least that was my original rationale when I ducked in to see “From Bugs to Beasts: Storytelling Through Collage by Eric Carle” at the Stanford in Washington Art Gallery in D.C.’s Woodley Park neighborhood, where a collection of lithographs and torn paper works by the artist are on display. But it turns out that the exhibit, which runs through September 1 and features huge versions of Carle’s classic tissue-paper illustrations of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and other works, only scratched the surface. Carle, a commercial artist who ventured into children’s books — illustrating over 70 — and never went back, dreamed of a place where the art featured in classic storybooks could be appreciated beyond the page. So in 2001, he opened the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in his hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts.
The museum now hosts a series of rotating and permanent exhibits; the two currently on display feature the works of E. H. Shepard, the illustrator of the classic Winnie-the-Pooh books, and a retrospective of writer and illustrator Tomie dePaola, who celebrates his 75th birthday this year. And The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is perhaps Carle’s most famous book, is observing a birthday of its own, with 40th anniversary parties being held across the country (check out these listings for events near you). Carle himself turned 80 this year, but is still busy blogging, and will be making his annual visit to the Picture Book Museum for a book signing this August 23.
The Carle seems like a perfect gateway museum for parents who are looking to move their kids beyond the children’s museum circuit and have them begin to appreciate fine art. Not only will they recognize many of the illustrations from their own book collections, but they’ll have the chance to make their own in the massive artist’s studio on site. They can also take in a story hour in the museum’s library, or watch some of the stories come to life in the theater. And then of course there’s another charming touch for the Very Hungry museumgoer- the signature snack in the museum cafeteria is the caterpillar cookie… with a hole in the center.
- Nat Geo Expeditions