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‘Whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important’: Eric Carle in his own words

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Artist Eric Carle, an illustrator and author of childrens books, in the lobby of the  Eric Carle Museum where 8 feet by 16 feet paintings of his work are housed. Carle was instrumental in the planning and building of the museum. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Artist Eric Carle, an illustrator and author of childrens books, in the lobby of the Eric Carle Museum where 8 feet by 16 feet paintings of his work are housed. Carle was instrumental in the planning and building of the museum. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

"With The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it started out as a green worm. Actually, I started punching holes into a stack of paper, and I looked at the holes and I said, "That's a bookworm." Then I developed the story with a worm, and the idea was pretty much the way the caterpillar is – except it ended up with this big, green worm. And my editor said, "I'm not so sure about a worm. It's not very appealing."

Then we discussed other insects. I said something, she said something, and at one point she says, "How about a caterpillar?" And I said, "Butterfly!" And the book was finished. So often working with an editor, it's not that you have hours and hours discussing things. Sometimes it's a little remark… It's now been translated into 33 languages, and I think it's sold about 17 million copies worldwide."

"All my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them. I have this wonderful quote by Leonardo da Vinci. I have this up next to my desk, and it says, "The more minutely you describe, the more you will confuse the mind of the reader, and the more you will prevent him from a knowledge of the thing described."

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