Eric Carle (born June 25, 1929) is a children's book author and illustrator who is most famous for his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has been translated into over 47 languages. Since The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published in 1969, Eric Carle has illustrated more than 70 books, many best sellers, most of which he also wrote, and more than 88 million copies of his books have sold around the whole world.
Born in Syracuse, New York in 1929 to German emigrants Johanna and Erich Carle, Eric moved back to Germany with his parents in the mid-1930s when he was six years old; his mother, homesick for Germany, took the family back to Stuttgart. He was educated there, and graduated from the prestigious art school, the Akademie der bildenden Künste, in Stuttgart. Eric's father was drafted into the German army during World War II and spent eight years as a prisoner of the Russians. "When he came back, he was a broken man. He was, in Eric Carle's own words in a Guardian inteview a "sick man, psychologically, physically devastated." Eric had been sent to the small town of Schwenningen to escape the bombings of Stuttgart.
When Eric was 15, the German government conscripted him and other boys of his age to dig trenches on the Siegfried line. Although he does not like to think about it too deeply, his wife, he told a reporter, thinks he still suffers from post-traumatic stress from those days, adding: "You know about the Siegfried line? To dig trenches. And the first day three people were killed a few feet away. Not children -- Russian prisoners or something. The nurses came and started crying. And in Stuttgart, our home town, our house was the only one standing.
When I say standing, I mean the roof and windows are gone, and the doors. And, well, there you are." Always homesick for America, Eric dreamed of returning one day to the United States, so he moved to New York City in 1952 with only US$45 to his name. Once there, he landed a job as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War and stationed in Germany with the Second Armored Division and appointed the position of mail clerk. After returning from the service, Carle returned to his old job with The New York Times and later became the art director of an advertising agency.
Writing and illustrating career
Educator and author Bill Martin Jr., after noticing an illustration of a red lobster Carle had created for an advertisement, asked him to illustrate a story. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was the result of their collaboration, and became a best-seller. This began Carle's true career; soon he was writing and illustrating his own stories. His first wholly original book was 1,2,3 to the Zoo, followed quickly by The Very Hungry ...