Yesterday I went on a field trip with one of our daughters and four of our grandchildren. We visited the Frist Art Museum in Nashville to see the Eric Carle’s Picture Books exhibit. The exhibit celebrates 50 years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. On display are dozens of Carle’s original illustrations.
Our family first saw Carle’s original illustrations back in 1999. I was fascinated then by his method of painting tissue paper and then cutting it out to create collage illustrations. Yesterday I learned about Eric Carle the person.
Second Mondays of each month are Family Mondays at the Frist. One of the special activities yesterday was a free tour of the exhibit. The docent did an excellent job. As we stood in front of illustrations from Friends, she told us that Carle was born in America but moved to his parents’ native Germany when he was a child. When the Carle family moved, he left behind a childhood friend. Friends is a story about two close friends who are separated when one of them moves away.
When Carle published Friends, he included a photograph of himself with his friend. When a reporter learned about Carle’s lost friendship, he searched for her until he found her. Carle and his friend were reunited 82 years later. He was 85; she was 86.
The docent took us to a room that featured two especially touching exhibits. One was a necklace Carle commissioned for his wife Bobbie. It included 17 silver charms shaped like individual illustrations from Carle’s books. In the center was the very hungry caterpillar. Near the necklace was one of Carle’s paint-splattered painting smocks and a pair of his paint-splattered shoes.
We saw two films which also helped us get to know Eric Carle the person. On one giant screen we watched Carle read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. That was a treat! Last night, I learned that The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the 10th most checked-out book in the 125-year history of the New York Public Library.
In another film, we learned about Eric Carle’s mama. Carle said that when he looked back, he realized that he had a very good mother. As a child, when he went to his room to draw, his mother told his family not to disturb him because he was drawing pictures. When relatives came to visit, she showed them his pictures.
Think of the impact that Mrs. Carle has had on the world, simply because:
- She gave her son a private place to do what he loved.
- She gave him undisturbed time to do it.
- She honored him by praising his work in front of other people.
Carle loves to create art. He has loved it since he was a child. He said that the feeling he has when he is creating art is like the way a cat feels when it purrs. He said that immersing himself in art makes him feel the same way that he felt when he was a boy.
You certainly are doing something important every day when you live with, love, teach, enjoy, praise, and encourage your children.
My son, observe the commandment of your father
And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;
Bind them continually on your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
When you walk about, they will guide you;
When you sleep, they will watch over you;
And when you awake, they will talk to you.