Friday, April 30, 2010

Story Time: Eric Carle

A shopper would be hard-pressed to walk very far into a children's bookstore without bumping into a display chock full of Eric Carle books. This guy's stuff is everywhere. Frankly, I've never been drawn to his work for two really stupid reasons. The first might have to do with his ubiquity--we English majors can be a bit snobbish when it comes to popular books. But it could also have to do with his use of primary colors; they just don't appeal to me. I told you these reasons where stupid.

I've changed my mind about Eric Carle's work. Having a child changes a lot of the lofty ideals you held before you had children. This is a case where the books didn't initially grab my attention, but they appealed to my child so I was sold.

 In fact, at just two months old Emeline ate up Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Here are two of the three Eric Carle books that receive my Q Seal of Approval!

These are only theories, but I think there are two key elements that cause these books to be a hit for the little ones. Firstly, the text is short and so the reader is always flipping pages--no reason for the listener to become bored. These pages are from Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Secondly, Carl's illustrations are full of contrast which are interesting and stimulating for little eyes. Most pages have a white background with bright bold animals:

 Here are some from Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?

 Switching it up for the white dog:

Uh...does that kid have a mullet?
Every time I read this book, I feel sorry for him.

My third Eric Carl pick is his ABC book:

This one shares the same elements as Polar Bear and Brown Bear

with some added movement:

I can't help but sing the alphabet at the end.

Nerdy side note: of these three Carle published Brown Bear in 1967 and Polar Bear in 1991. In 2003, he published Panda Bear, Panda Bear What Do You See? a riff of the previous two with one distinct difference:

Pick up on it yet?

The minor tweak to the background, believe it or not, does make a difference. Emeline is less interested in this one. And since this page weirds me out...

I'm less likely to pick it up.

The next time you are shopping for a gift, scouring garage sales or used book stores, or checking out books at your local library, I think Polar Bear, Brown Bear, and Carle's ABC's are great selections. Admittedly, the more time I spend with these three for Emeline's benefit, the more I appreciate the way he uses paint and scissors. His technique and the finished product are really quite cool.


  1. Dad says...a really nice concept, really nice blog, we enjoy it every day.
    Mom says...the kid with the it a girl, with her hair tucked behind her ears? That was my first impression.

  2. Brianna loves those books! They wore them out.

  3. Mon!
    You snobby english major, you! ha! what a cute blog post! speaking as an elem ed major myself, I must recommend that you take a children's literature class! It was a requirement for el. ed. and was one of my favorite classes in undergrad. the adolescent lit class I took at IU was also good, but didn't hold a candle to "kitty lit" as we often called it.

    There is currently a bulletin board up in our school with eric carle art done by one of the first grade rooms. They did a lovely job painting all the the solid colors first and then cutting them out into their pictures. I think our school has a DVD on his collage work.

    Lastly, because I know you love this kind of stuff, I must include a librarian's trivia question! And let me say right up front that you are NOT allowed to find the answer to this trivia question on the internet! Ask a friend or librarian or better yet, discover it for yourself by scouring through Eric Carle's books! Here ya go - What significant change did Eric Carle make in his famous book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" between his first and more recent versions of the book!? Yay! I can't wait for you to find out!! You'll LOVE it and be FORCED UNCONTROLLABLY to track down and OWN a vintage copy!!!!! I'm so excited for you to discover it NOT on on the internet!! I can't wait!!! I didn't even know about it myself until I picked up a tattered copy at a thrift shop and noticed the change. I LOVE YOU!

  4. BR! I am all a-buzz! I don't know the answer! And I "cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye" promise that I will not research the question online! I've got some librarian contacts, they will be receiving emails shortly...