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Beloved Children's Author Eric Carle Dead at 91

He created such iconic books as 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2021 12:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Eric Carle, the beloved children’s author and illustrator whose classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other works gave millions of kids some of their earliest and most cherished literary memories, has died at age 91. Carle's family says he died Sunday at his summer studio in Northampton, Mass., with family members at his side, the AP reports. The family's announcement was issued by Penguin Young Readers. Through the more than 75 books he wrote and/or illustrated, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Do You Want to Be My Friend?, and From Head to Toe, Carle introduced universal themes in simple words and bright colors. “The unknown often brings fear with it,” he once observed. “In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, was welcomed by parents and delighted kids with its story of the metamorphosis of a green and red caterpillar to a proudly multi-colored butterfly. Originally conceived as a book about a bookworm—called “A Week with Willi the Worm”—the hero, who eats through 26 different foods, was changed to a caterpillar on the advice of his editor. It has sold some 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, spawned stuffed animal caterpillars, and has been turned into a stage play. Politicians like George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton were known to read the book to children on the campaign trail. The American Academy of Pediatrics sent more than 17,000 pediatricians special copies of the book, along with growth charts and parent handouts on healthy eating. “I remember that as a child, I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent,” Carle told the New York Times in 1994. ”Caterpillar is a book of hope: you, too, can grow up and grow wings.” (Much more on his fascinating life here.)

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