The Very Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle dies at 91

Eric Carle.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Beloved children's author and illustrator Eric Carle, known for his classic picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, died on Sunday at his studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, his family announced Wednesday. He was 91.

Over the course of his career, Carle wrote and/or illustrated more than 75 books, and received lifetime achievement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Library Association. He said he used his books to spread positive messages, and felt that "children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun."

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was first published in 1969, and since then has sold 40 million copies and been translated into 60 languages. In a 1994 interview with The New York Times, Carle said when he was a child, "I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent. Caterpillar is a book of hope: You, too, can grow up and grow wings."

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Carle was also known for his collaborations with Bill Martin Jr., providing the illustrations for Martin's 1967 book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Martin told The Associated Press in 2003 that when he saw Carle's art in an advertisement for Maine lobster, it was "so striking" that he knew Carle had to be the illustrator for Brown Bear, Brown Bear. The pair followed up with two more books together: 1991's Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and 2003's Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?

With his late wife, Barbara, Carle in 2002 opened the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, featuring children's book illustrations from around the world. Carle is survived by a son and daughter.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.