Summer at the Eric Carle Museum

My summer venture at the Eric Carle Museum was nothing short of wonderful.  I have much to tell you!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Mobile

The museum is celebrating 20 years.  The main exhibit is Celebrating Collage.  Of course!  Eric Carle’s art was all done in collage.  What a perfect way to highlight his work and the museum’s anniversary.  The work of 20 picture book artists and 90 featured collages are on display.  In the words of the museum, they transform the mundane into the magical.

Here’s the BIG thing: when you read a picture book and admire the illustrations, you may have no idea how that art was actually made.  It could be a watercolor or oil painting.  It could also be cut-outs of a variety if materials, also known as collages.  Details of the original art typically cannot be seen in the picture book illustration.

The first time I went to the Eric Carle museum, the exhibit was “A Child in the Community.”  I was face-to-face with an Ezra Jack Keats illustration of the classic children’s book, The Snowy Day.  Are you ready for this?  The illustration was made from cut-out linoleum.  Really.  I was stunned.

That began my deep respect for the art of illustrations.

Whenever I read a picture book, I think about the illustrations and how the artist made them.

Here I am this past weekend, with The Snowy Day, once again.  Yes, I was (slightly) out of control;  I was more excited than a four-year-old, and visitors gave me parting glances.

The current exhibit has a plethora of collage illustrations – and many you never knew were collages.

Lois Ehlert, Planting a Rainbow.

Lois’ mother was a seamstress, and her father was a woodworker, so she frequently got their scraps of materials.  She made collage art, often combining real objects with painted ones, like this one:

Micha Archer’s collage illustration of Patricia MacLachlan’s book Prairie Days is stunning.  I think this is art that would make Eric Carle smile.

One of my favorite collages was Melissa Sweet’s display of the illustration and also artifacts she used in her book about E.B. White, Some Writer.

If you zoom in on the illustration below, you can see the detail of the collage art.

The highlight of my visit was a presentation and book signing by Astrid Sheckels of her new book, Hector Fox and the Raven’s Revenge.  This is the long-awaited second book in the Hector Fox series.  The story is exciting, full of adventure, and has a surprise ending.  It is equally as excellent as the first book, Hector Fox and the Giant Quest.  And, the illustrations are magnificent.

I love Hector Fox.

I have his portrait hanging in my living room.

The next time you read a picture book, imagine how the artist created the illustration.  It could be anything from a pen and ink drawing, to a woodcut, to hundreds of tiny pieces of raised paper to create feathers.  It could be paint so thick that it’s lumpy and bumpy to create the ocean.  It could be made from felt, tin, buttons, and linoleum.  Whenever I read to my students, I spend time to talk about the art of the illustrations.

These are all illustrations I have seen at the Eric Carle Museum.  Art is a feast for the eyes that fills the soul.


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, children's books, Early Education, Eric Carle, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, museums, picture books, The Arts, wonder and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to Summer at the Eric Carle Museum

  1. My daughter loves his books.

  2. barbtaub says:

    I can feel your excitement! Thanks so much for taking us along on this wonderful adventure.

  3. Wonderful … and another example of the unlimited bounds of human creativity.

  4. Lucky Jennie a feast for the eyes. Thank you for reminding me to look more carefully. Sandra

  5. beth says:

    how wonderful, the excitement never ends there! it is a place I intend to visit for sure. like you, I’ve learned to appreciate more about the illustrations/art forms in books and so appreciate the different styles of expressing a story visually.

  6. Your discussion of the art of the picture book was fascinating! I would say that the exhibit gave good reason for getting out of control with excitement. Here’s to the gift of museums!

  7. sjhigbee says:

    Thank you for taking us to a place many of us will never get the chance to get to in reality. And remind us of the skill and care that is taken over such illustrations:)).

  8. What refreshing art!

  9. The artwork looks wonderful and your visit outstanding!

  10. petespringerauthor says:

    Besides the stories themselves, the illustrations in picture books are a big part of the enjoyment for children. I imagine young children identify many books that way. They probably won’t remember the author/illustrator, but they might remember the title and definitely the illustrations. “Read us the one with the funny bees, Jennie.”

    • Jennie says:

      You are exactly right, Pete. The illustrations play a big role, and make the words far more meaningful for children. When they can’t remember the title, they’ll often identify the book by describing the illustration.

      First impressions are everything, and the illustrations draw the reader to a book.

      I just wish more people could see the original illustrations, because that’s where the art explodes in wonderful, divergent ways. That’s the art lover in me.

  11. Being mindful to stop and smell the roses in all creative endeavours is very important

  12. Darlene says:

    I love this line, Art is a feast for the eyes that fills the soul. Thanks. I know a picture book author/illustrator who uses something like plasticine to create her pictures. I am amazed at all the creative minds out there.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you loved that line, Darlene! There is so much creativity out there. Your daughter is a creative artist. And your friend…wow!

  13. beetleypete says:

    Your joy and excitement is so infectious, Jennie! It makes me happy to see you so happy! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. I’m so glad to make you happy. Really. Joy and excitement is certainly infectious, and that is a wonderful thing. Best to you.

  14. Mireya says:

    I imagine every time I read the book. I had a wonderful opportunity to teach students about collage art. We started with Eric Carle and the hungry caterpillar and how Eric paints. Then did a collage with construction paper. Then painted paper towels with washable markers and watercolor ink. We didn’t have paint so I used what I have. What the students came up with was amazing!

  15. This post was fun. Thanks for sharing, Jennie.

  16. Love knowing the behind the scenes stuff! Looks like you had a grand day out.

  17. L. Marie says:

    I’d love to visit!
    I didn’t know that about Ezra Jack Keats! Amazing!

  18. Ritu says:

    This is so wonderful! We are making an Erc Carle display right now!!

  19. HI Jennie, illustrations do come in lots of shapes and forms although the majority seem to be done on a computer now. I make my illustrations from cake, sweets and fondant which is also a bit unusual.

  20. Loved this post. Thanks Jennie

  21. I always look forward to these posts, Jennie. The illustrations are wonderful. I’d love to visit that museum. 🙂

  22. quiall says:

    I think we absorb more visually than any other form of learning. We lose that as we grow older and we function just fine but as children… I remember my picture books very fondly. And collage is so hands-on. I have great memories doing it.

  23. Dan Antion says:

    I love these posts, Jennie. Your excitement shows and the benefit shows in your class all year long.

  24. What a fascinating Museum Jennie, Loved the tour and images my friend ❤

  25. What FUN! And as a picture book author (with SO much respect to my illustrator) I can’t agree with you more, Jennie. My 9-year-old grandboy has written a book and illustrated it. It’s sweet (though lots of swords and spaceships and a dragon or two) but he can’t understand why I can’t publish it for him. Whoops.

  26. Don Ostertag says:

    What a fine museum, Jennie! These artists are so often overlooked.

    • Jennie says:

      They are, Don, yet their art is among the best. I don’t know of any other museum dedicated to the art of picture books. Thank you to Eric Carle.

  27. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    They are all so beautiful. I will think of the illustrations when I look at books with them. Thank you.

  28. What a wonderful adventure. Thanks for bringing us along, Jennie. I love the pic of you and Hector. Hugs on the wing.

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the current exhibit. I didn’t realize the museum was newly opened when we moved here in 2001. I have loved our visits there but haven’t been since Covid. Obviously time for a return.

  30. This really looks like a wonderful museum as a great honour to Eric Carle. Thanks for sharing your impressions, Jennie! A wonderful virtual tour! xx Michael

  31. Kally says:

    One of my favourite children authors of all time!

  32. dgkaye says:

    What an enchanting visit! ❤

  33. Awesome visit! What a great tribute to a visionary artist.

  34. Carla says:

    What a great post, Jennie. I will have to put this museum on my list of places to visit when I make it to the East Coast. I loved the images you highlighted Jennie. What a difference to what you actually see in the books.

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