Eric Carle’s Newest Book: A Lifetime Love of Words and Art

in Fiction by
Eric Carle
Credit: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Anyone who’s grown up in the last 40 years knows that when you ask a brown bear what it sees, the answer will be more than you bargained for—and that caterpillars tend to be very hungry.

We learned these wonderful lessons thanks to children’s author and illustrator Eric Carle. His new book, The Nonsense Show (Pilomel; October 13, 2015) is just as playful as the rest of his titles, but also offers readers young and old an introduction to a whimsical art style that is one of Carle’s favorites.

“When taken in context with his two most recent titles, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse and Friends, The Nonsense Show forms a trilogy of sorts, opening young readers to the worlds of expressionism, abstract art and now surrealism,” said Michael Green, president and publisher of Pilomel. “[Carle] is creating more than books. He’s preparing children for a lifetime of loving words and art.”

the-nonsense-show-cover-eric-carleIn The Nonsense Show, readers are treated to such visions as a duck emerging from a banana and a mouse chasing a cat. The books images are a nod to a child’s ready acceptance of such phrases as “the cow jumped over the moon” and “the dish ran away with the spoon,” but it’s also an homage to surrealist art—an avant-garde movement that arose after World War I.

The Nonsense Show came to me over a long period of time, and I had fun working on it,” the 85-year-old Carle said. “It’s a playful word-and-picture game and an upside-down way of looking at life and the world.

“I like these topsy-turvy points of view,” he said. “I appreciate the way Surrealist artists like [Rene] Magritte showed us all in their paintings that you have to keep looking, keep paying attention. And keep playing.”

Other surrealist artists include Salvadore Dali and Man Ray. Carle is also a big fan of Pablo Picasso, another master of surrealism.

the-very-Hungry-Caterpillar-cover-eric-carleGenerations of young readers have grown up treasuring Carle’s books, beginning with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, which Carle created along with author Bill Martin Jr. in 1967. The first book that Carle wrote and illustrated was 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo, which was followed by The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969. Since its initial publication, Caterpillar has been translated into 62 languages and has sold more than 41 million copies.

In all, Carle has illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote and many of which went on to become bestsellers. In all, more than 132 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide. His works, along with picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world, are preserved and celebrated at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Carle’s work is as distinctive as it is beloved. In his books, he employs a collage technique for illustration. He uses hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form his instantly recognizable images. Many of his books add other dimensions as well, including the twinkling lights of The Very Lonely Firefly and the sound of the cricket’s song in The Very Quiet Cricket.

“With many of my books, I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school,” he said in a statement on The Official Eric Carle Website. “To me, home represents—or should represent—warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?

“I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood,” he said. “The first, of course, is being born. Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books, I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message.

“I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn,” he said. “I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”

Carle pours on the fun in The Nonsense Show, which, if the popularity of his previous books are any example, will soon become a favorite of children around the world. So if children you know grow up to be fans of Magritte or Picasso, don’t be surprised.

Main image credit: BookTrib

Michael Ruscoe is a writer, teacher, and musician living in Southern Connecticut. He is the author of the novel, "From the Stray Cat Files: You’ll Do Anything," the anthology, "Baseball: A Treasury of Art and Literature," and numerous educational texts. An instructor at Southern Connecticut State University, Ruscoe is also lead singer and songwriter for the indie band Save the Androids! In his spare time he earns karma for his next life by ardently following the New York Mets. The proud father of two children, Ruscoe also cares for and supports a pair of goldfish, who, in all honesty, are not very good conversationalists.

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