A Day At the Eric Carle Museum

For book lovers and art lovers, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts has it all.  There are three galleries of rotating art exhibits, the best book store-hands down, and a host of well known authors and illustrators who do special presentations and book signings.  There’s always something happening at The Carle.

And every single time I visit I feel a bit overwhelmed in the best of ways, like a child at Christmas, because there is just so much.  Saturday was no exception.

One of my favorite picture books is Hector Fox and the Giant Quest by Astrid Sheckels. The text is rich in language – words like ‘quest’ – to complement a well written, exciting story.  As soon as I read aloud from the book,

“I wish fairy tales were real sighed little Lucy.”  And that was all it took for Hector and his band of merry friends to go in search of a real giant.

Preschoolers are riveted, waiting, wondering.  Words can do that, particularly good ones- like Hector Fox and the Giant Quest.  I am reminded of what E.B. White said about writing to children:

“Never write down to children.  Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time.  You have to write up, not down.”  -E.B. White-

The illustrations are equally stunning.  They bring the text alive.  Astrid Sheckels was there, at the Eric Carle Museum, to read her book and give a drawing demonstration.  I was fortunate to arrive early and spend time with the author.  There are more Hector Fox books forthcoming!

Watching an illustrator draw characters is fascinating.  Of all the books I’ve read over thirty years, I haven’t watched the artist draw the characters – live!

Of course the children wanted her to draw Hector, and also Lucy.  When the sketch was finished, I suggested that she sign it.  Good idea!

And I was the lucky one to get to take the sketch home!  On my way out of the library, I was directed to the upper corner of the doorway.  Very cool!

The museum’s main exhibit was Paddington Bear.  This is the first time Paddington’s original illustrations, books, and memorabilia have been on exhibit in the United States.  I was in my glory, as I read Paddington Bear books to my children, over and over.  I always wanted to ride on a London bus with Paddington:

And, I will always marvel at seeing original artwork, up close, particularly when it’s familiar from a story.

I loved reading Michael Bond’s letters of acceptance from the publisher.  I wonder what a £75 royalty in 1958 would compare to, in 2018 dollars?

Other works of art from famous illustrators adorned another exhibit.  This was a favorite by Leo and Diane Dillon:

There is always an exhibit on the art of Eric Carle.  Two things struck me.  One of my favorite books is The Tiny Seed, and I saw the original artwork:

The second thing that struck me was learning more about the time Eric Carle was an art student while in Nazi Germany.  I will always remember that his high school art teacher, Fridolin Krauss, risked his own life to show Carle “forbidden art”, you know… Picasso, Klee, Matisse, and Kandinsky.

That changed Carle’s life.

What I did not know, and got to see, was the art Eric Carle was painting while studying under Krauss.  Perhaps this painting will show you the talent Carle had back then, and why Krauss risked his life to show Carle more, much more.

I find this story one of the most moving stories of the twentieth century.  I always find more at the Eric Carle Museum.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, Author interview, Book Review, children's books, Early Education, Eric Carle, Imagination, Inspiration, museums, picture books, reading aloud, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to A Day At the Eric Carle Museum

  1. Fabulous post, Jennie.

  2. Wow! The kids had to be thrilled. When I was little, the few times someone came to school or church to draw delighted me. Even those felt things…(hope you know what I mean, I don’t know what they’re called). Marvelous post, Jennie. Hugs

  3. Denise says:

    What an amazing place!

  4. Tammy Hutchinson says:

    How wonderful a day for everyone! I’d love to visit this museum.

  5. What a wonderful experience!

  6. A terrific post, Jennie. I would love to visit this museum and hope to do so someday.

  7. You were indeed lucky to have that artwork. What beautiful sketches. 🙂

  8. TanGental says:

    You had me at Paddington. I wrote a post that was passsd to Michael Bonds great niece. A real ‘Too cool for school’ moment. Just lovely.

  9. Ritu says:

    Oh Jennie you are so lucky to be able to go there!!!!

  10. beetleypete says:

    In 1958, £75 would have bought a nice used car. Today’s equivalent value in pounds is £1,750, which is $2,300. However, in real terms, that £75 was worth a lot more then. My Dad earned less than £10 at that time, so it was a month’s pay for some workers. The trip looks great, and it was wonderful to see the talented artist at work.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  11. willedare says:

    Another delightful and inspiring post. So many of my favorite books were written for children and teenagers. I need to visit this museum. And often!

    • Jennie says:

      My favorite books, too. If you check their website, you can plan a day when there’s an artist or writer or exhibit you like is there. Sometimes there are multiple authors at one event. Thanks so much, Will!

  12. Thank you for the vicarious visit. I enjoyed every minute.

  13. Ellen says:

    A wonderful post about a favorite place that we often visit. Benjamin is fortunate to reside where frequent visiting is possible. Membership for the family was a gift that began when he was 2 years old. The memories will last a lifetime, which is more than worth the investment! Thank-you!

  14. It’s such a magical place! Thank you for sharing your truly memorable day, Jennie! – Susan

  15. srbottch says:

    Wonderful, Jennie.

  16. srbottch says:

    Wonderful, Jennie. I can imagine your excitement to be among the books and the art work. And Amherst is such a pretty part of the state.

  17. wow! What a lovely experience! Oh that my Lyla could be in your class! Godspeed my friend!

  18. Dan Antion says:

    Love this post, Jennie. What a fabulous place!

  19. Norah says:

    It’s on my ‘one-day’ list, Jennie. Thank you. You bring it to life for me.

  20. Reblogged this on Usborne Books and More With Niki and commented:
    Who knew there was an Eric Carle museum??? I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar with my baby just the other day.

  21. Sorry I missed this post earlier, it’s such a gem and makes me want to revisit the Eric Carle museum. I’m not familiar with the Hector Fox books, but I so enjoyed watching Astrid draw her main character. Glad you had another great visit!

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad you got to read this post. September 15th at the museum is a big day, as they celebrate 50 years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Can you believe it has been 50 years? Wow!

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