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Eric Carle's Book Birthdays

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not the only one celebrating an important anniversary this year (our 20th!). So are many of Eric Carle’s books. A new exhibition, Eric Carle’s Book Birthdays, honors 13 Carle titles marking their 20th, 25th, and 50th birthdays in 2022 and 2023. Opening September 3 and on view through March 5, 2023, the exhibition displays original art from Rooster’s Off to See the World (1972) and From Head to Toe (1997), among others. Animals figure prominently in every book, underscoring Carle’s love of using nature to tell stories.  
Museum guests will see old friends from their favorite Carle books, like the quiet and peaceful sloth in “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth (2002) and Red Fox, the first guest to arrive at Little Frog’s birthday party in Hello, Red Fox (1988). Books celebrating their 50th birthdays provide an opportunity to view some of Carle’s earliest picture book illustrations. While they retain all their original energy and charm, the older artworks demonstrate a difference in Carle’s collage materials. In the early 1970s, Carle used rubber cement and store-bought tissue paper, resulting in images that have darkened and discolored over time. The condition is evident in works from Walter the Baker (1972) and The Very Long Train (1972). By comparison, the illustrations Carle created later for Sloth and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you See? (2003) maintain their original brightness since he switched to archival materials in the mid 1980s.  

Ellen Keiter, The Carle’s chief curator, reflected on the exhibition: “I’m sure Eric never imagined in his wildest dreams that the illustrations he made 50 years ago would one day be preserved and exhibited in a museum he built.” On view for the first time are illustrations from A Very Long Tail (1972), Do Bears Have Mothers, Too? (1973), and I See a Song (1973).  
A large birthday cake and colored banners in the gallery set a celebratory tone. Guests are invited to design birthday cards or draw their birthday wishes at a party table. They can even peek “inside” presents on the gallery walls for surprises. “We had fun designing the exhibition,” says Keiter. “We wanted to create the excitement of a child’s birthday party.” 

Eric Carle’s Book Birthdays features 50 original artworks from the following books: 

20 Years 

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth, 2002  
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, 2003 

25 Years 

Flora and Tiger, 1997 
From Head to Toe, 1997  
Hello, Red Fox, 1998  
You Can Make a Collage, 1998 

50 Years 

The Secret Birthday Message, 1972 
Rooster’s Off to See the World, 1972  
The Very Long Tail, 1972 
The Very Long Train, 1972  
Walter the Baker, 1972 
Do Bears Have Mothers, Too?, 1973  
I See a Song, 1973 

This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Hsin-Yi Foundation.

About the Museum 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is the international champion for picture books. We collect, preserve, and exhibit original illustrations, encourage guests of all ages to read and create art, and foster an ever-growing audience passionate about children’s literature. 

The late Eric and Barbara Carle co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Eric Carle was the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 43,000-square foot facility has served nearly one million visitors. The Carle houses more than 11,000 objects, including 7,300 permanent collection illustrations. The Carle has three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and school children. Bobbie’s Meadow is an outdoor space that combines art and nature. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and master’s degree programs in children’s literature with Simmons University. The Museum offers digital resources, including art activities, book recommendations, collections videos, exhibition videos, as well as workshops for online visitors. Learn more at and on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram @CarleMuseum. 

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