Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Quintet of Books


Sometimes, readers ask me why a number of my books have the word "Very" in the title. After The Very Hungry Caterpillar had been published I wanted to create a “Very” quartet. Why a quartet? I liked the idea of a group. But also, I must admit that I had been taken by the sound of The Alexandria Quartet, written by Lawrence Durrell, which I read a long time ago. The story of which I cannot much recall, but the sound of these three words, The Alexandria Quartet have remained with me. Ideas, or a speck of an idea, come from the darndest places! I proceeded to write and illustrate Spider, Cricket and Firefly and completed my quartet. But what should happen? A tiny voice whispered to me “quintet” And so the Click Beetle was born.

However, each "Very" book came about in a different way. The Very Hungry Caterpillar had a sort of accidental beginning in that I was punching holes into a stack of papers. I knew right away that the spider in The Very Busy Spider would be the hero, but it took me a long time to come up with the idea of a raised web. (In the first book the hole was the given - the caterpillar followed. In the second book, the spider was the given - the raised web followed.) With The Very Quiet Cricket, my third Very book, I knew from the beginning about the insect and the sound. In my fourth Very book, The Very Lonely Firely, I knew I wanted a different kind of surprise at the end. And with The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, the fifth book in my quintet, the theme of perseverance, that one must try and try again, was where I began.

Now I have a complete quintet. Five movements exploring a theme. I sometimes feel like a composer of music - and why not!

I hope you have enjoyed these thoughts on my Very books and my musings on how these compositions came to life. Be it crickets or humans, we can only make music when the circumstances are right. I didn't invent that, I only observed it.

Eric Carle

16 comments:

annalee said...

I love your "very" books! I taught kindergarten for five years and spent many hours reading your books to classes. Each year we spent a month studying you as an author/illustrator and you were always a favorite among each class.
Now I am staying home with my 18 month old who is "reading" your board books back to me. You have so many great works!

Bookworm said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences and observation! It was fun to get a sneak peak into each of your "Very" creations!!

LOVE that LION!!!! You are so creative!

Jennifer Poppy said...

Very interesting to learn the "why" behind all of these great books!

zobars said...

I am so glad to know the reason behind the titles. We love all your books. My personal favorite is The Very Hungry Caterpillar and my daughter's favorite is The Very Quiet Cricket.

missy j said...

Thanks for sharing! LOVE all your books and art work.
Missy

Janet Brady said...

Thanks for the window into your creative thought process. It was fascinating. Even though I don't teach young children anymore and my own children are adults, I'm still a fan of your work. Maybe soon I'll be reading your beautiful, enthralling books to grandkids!

snivel and run said...

we can only make music when the circumstances are right....very nice thought there mr. carle. My best friend johnny was just telling me this the other day, when i was asking why he hadnt recorded a song in a while. The next day two new songs were sent to me :) http://www.myspace.com/friendstealer
I love the very lonely firefly, the idea of manouvering through the world and eventually finding 'home' is beautiful.

Reenie said...

Hello Mr. Carle! All of us at Vermont Teddy Bear Company are huge fans. I'd like to talk to you about pairing our handmade Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear and Panda Bear with your Brown Bear and Friends gift book set. Here are links to our bears:

http://www.vermontteddybear.com/SellGroup/Save-the-Bears-Panda-Bear.aspx

http://www.vermontteddybear.com/SellGroup/Save-the-Bears-Polar-Bear.aspx

http://www.vermontteddybear.com/SellGroup/Save-the-Bears-Grizzly-Bear.aspx

If there is a better way to get in touch with you, let me know. My email is irenes@vtbear.com and phone is (802) 985-1325. All the best, Irene Steiner

Nicole said...

Thank you for sharing. I love the lion composer, too!

rd said...

Very, very, very, very enlightening. Thank you for sharing.

iburnedthetoast said...

Hey Eric! I just posted some art I did for my parents by using the tutorials on your website! Thank you SO much for putting that up! I put a link on the post so that other people who want to learn how can go to your site and try it as well! If you'd like to see it it's at http://iburnedthetoast.wordpress.com/2009/06/18/a-family-tree-eric-carle-style/
Thanks SO much!

westendmum said...

We think you're a very nice man.
xx

jnwiese02 said...

I just bought The Very Hungry Caterpillar for my 6 month old Son. His Great Aunt is a Kindergarten teacher and reads your books to hear class, she got him Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See..I LOVE reading them to him!

TranquilityStation said...

Thank you for sharing your insights. Wishing you a Very Happy 80th Birthday!

Rachelsmum said...

Very interesting, Mr Carle! I don't know any children who haven't enjoyed your caterpillar book, my two loved it and it's a real favourite in our school today. Thank you so much and a very happy 80th birthday for tomorrow.
sue h

Peter said...

Is the Lion Composer character from a book?