This past month, the world lost one of it’s most celebrated children’s authors. But our family, and thousands more around the globe, lost a dear friend. Although we never had the honor of actually meeting him, Eric Carle has been like a beloved member of the family since our first child was born. He has brought countless hours of joy to our home — inspiring smiles, giggles, bug hunts, pancake breakfasts, butterfly habitats, leafy green feasts, and grouchy ladybug stand-offs. “Hey you, wanna fight?”
There have been entire weeks, maybe even months, when our family (by ardent request) has read from our Eric Carle library exclusively. There was an entire year plus a few months (yes, I actually tracked it) that I read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to our son each and every day, and another six months following that our boy fell asleep to the audio recording of it set on repeat . . . because my husband and I would only agree to read it three times in a row. At the age of sixteen months, our caterpillar lover could recite the whole book word for word. Shortly thereafter, I put the words to song (simply because I was so tired of reading it and needed to switch things up) and it still remains a favorite requested bedtime lullaby, now for little sister. By our son’s second birthday, it was clear that Eric Carle had become his first favorite author, and we celebrated with A Very Hungry Caterpillar Picnic. This marked the first of our son’s self-selected “book-themed birthdays“, and each birthday since has been celebrated with that year’s favorite book.
Looking back, I don’t think any other book has had more impact on our son’s development than that of the world’s favorite caterpillar. That fuzzy little red-headed creepy-crawler inspired an early love for both voracious eating and voracious reading in our son. And although our read-alouds together have been mostly chapter books for over two years now, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” planted seeds of curiosity in our son that are still growing and vining in all directions to this day.
It may be some years since we have read Eric Carle to our first grader, but worm hunts, butterfly kits, beetle hunts, firefly chases, and ant observations still top the charts of favorite activities in his little world. In fact, just this afternoon we spotted a giant queen ant in the garden, and as she lumbered along our little bug boy encouraged her saying “you better hurry along to your colony, ant queen, before an assassin bug spots you!” Eric Carle paved the way for years of bug books, nature documentaries, and unit studies. He was truly our son’s first Science teacher as well as favorite storyteller . . . just the combo great teachers should be.
Our son may claim to have *outgrown* “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and friends, but he still sits in on little sister’s Eric Carle read-alouds — a strange knowing smile on his face, like he somehow understands how formational these books have been in his little life. And he has one stuffed animal that he has not relinquished, that he still sleeps with every night, and that he swears he will never part with . . . and oh my mama’s heart hopes he really never will.
So, in deepest gratitude and affection, I would like to share with you . . .
Our Family’s Letter of Gratitude to the Legendary Eric Carle
Dear Eric Carle,
Thank you for teaching our kids . . .
~the days of the week~
~the months of the year~
~the hours on a clock~
and ~the phases of the moon~
Thank you for showing our kids that . . .
~a cricket chirps~
~a beetle clicks~
~a ladybug feasts~
~a spider weaves~
~a chameleon changes~
and ~a firefly glows~
Thank you for giving our kids rich vocabulary . . .
~salami, nibbled, cocoon~
~aphids, insist, eerily ~
~lanternfish, electric eel, anemone~
~miller . . . flail . . . threshing~
Thank you for illustrating to our kids how . . .
~a caterpillar turns into a butterfly~
~a ladybug is insignificant to a whale~
~a lot of work goes into making a pancake~
~a hermit crab never stops growing~
and ~home is often the best place to be~
Our dear friend,
until the “fireflies come out to dance around the moon” . . .
rest in peace, ERIC CARLE.
Education Visionary and Friend to Children Around the World
“With many of my books I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?
I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases, we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. 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.”Eric Carle
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~