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.