A Very Big Thanks to Eric Carle

Illustration of colorful butterfly

Late in May, news arrived that Eric Carle died at the age of 91. I’m late in writing an appreciation, as it took me a while to draw a butterfly in celebration of his books.

In the 1980s, when I was a teenager, I discovered Eric Carle’s books while working in my grandparents’ bookstore (Gingerbread Square Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware). The vivid colors of the illustrations snagged my attention. The colors seemed to pop from the white pages. Upon looking closer, I saw that the colors weren’t solid — anything but. They were more interesting, complex, varying in texture. I had no idea how those designs were made — later I learned Mr. Carle painted tissue paper, then layered it to accomplish the effect.

And so I was captured in the magic of the colors and delightful story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There were many slow hours in the bookstore — tourists were surely enjoying the beach — when I read to pass the time. Novels, comic books, and kids books now and then. Carle’s books were in the mix of books I read.

Then leap about 15 years, when my twin daughters were infants. My wife and I love to read, and that love was also expressed by reading to our daughters. Again, Mr. Carle’s books were in the mix. A wonder for me to see the joy on our daughters’ faces while they looked at the illustrations and listened to the stories. When getting to the page spread of the beautiful butterfly, they would sometimes walk around flapping their arms and say “fss, fss, fss,” to imitate a flying butterfly. Adorable.

Added to Mr. Carle’s Caterpillar book in the reading times were Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Mister Seahorse and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Then leap another 15 years, when I sadly listened to the news of Mr. Carle passing on. A quote from his obituary in The Washington Post, on May 27, 2021, written by Emily Langer:

“The long, dark time of growing up in wartime Germany, the cruelly enforced discipline of my school years there, the dutifully performed work at my jobs in advertising — all these were finally losing their rigid grip on me. The child inside me — who had been so suddenly and sharply uprooted and repressed — was beginning to come joyfully back to life.” — Eric Carle

Thank you, Eric Carle, for the many gifts you put out into the world. You brought joy to lots and lots of young readers and parents.

Cherry Blossom Sculptures

This year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival decided to not have a parade and street festival, which typically happen on the last day of the 2-week celebration. Instead, the festival asked artists to create designs for 26 cherry blossom sculptures, and these were placed around the Washington, DC area.

My two daughters and I had fun tracking down some of the sculptures. The festival provides a helpful map to find them.

Below are the sculptures we saw. Click on each photo to jump to that sculpture’s page on the festival’s website, which tells more about the sculpture and artist.

Sculpture decorated with heart shapes and swirls.
“Celebration” by Sandra Pérez-Ramos
Sculpture decorated with two women sitting in a tree, with many birds also on the tree. Done in a folk art style.
“Cherry Garden” by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Sculpture decorated with picnic blanket and basket of bread, wine, and fruit.
“Cherry Blossom Picnic” by Rachael Bohlander
Sculpture decorated with the word HOPE written in different styles, along the lines of graffiti
“HOPE” by Aaron Feinstein
Sculpture decorated with a grid map of Washington DC
“Community Grid” by My Ly & Jaclyn Stallard