Illustration of Pete with shoes in belly.
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The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman's Books for Children

With an idiosyncratic style all her own, Kalman employs compressed space, unpredictable pacing, and often shocking colors to keep readers on their toes.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to present The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children, a colorful panorama of Kalman’s picture book career, on view November 10, 2019 through April 5, 2020. The exhibition premiered at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA in June 2019.

Perhaps best known for her humorous New Yorker covers and her brilliant pictorial essays for The New York Times, Kalman has also published 18 acclaimed children’s books (plus a dozen for adults). She illustrates the comic adventures of Max Stravinsky, the dog-poet in Max Makes a Million (1990), and the escapades of a gluttonous canine named Pete in What Pete Ate (2001). The exhibition features Next Stop Grand Central (1999) alongside illustrations from her recent publications Beloved Dog (2015) and Cake (2018). Kalman addresses important historical figures and events in Looking at Lincoln (2012), Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote (2018), and the 9/11-inspired Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey (2002). Balancing the ridiculous and the profound, Kalman’s vibrant gouache paintings and witty word play delight audiences of all ages.

With an idiosyncratic style all her own, Kalman employs compressed space, unpredictable pacing, and often shocking colors to keep readers on their toes. Her first children’s book was Stay Up Late (1987), in which she gave visual form to a famous Talking Heads song. She’s collaborated with other writers, including U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote (2018), food writer Barbara Scott-Goodman for Cake (2018), and children’s book author Lemony Snicket on 13 Words (2010). Paintings from all three books are represented in the exhibition. Kalman also loves dogs and explains her fascination with them in Beloved Dog (2015). (Viewers who look closely will find dogs amongst the array of characters in her books.)

Kalman says of her wide-ranging work, “The best children’s books are as appealing to adults as they are to children. There have to be different levels of humor, different levels of reference, which allow a dialogue between adults and children. If you live with children, the kinds of conversations you have during the day range from the surreal to the mundane to the insane to the pedantic. And that language can be duplicated in writing because the world is all of those things.”

In addition to Kalman’s original picture-book art, the exhibition presents personal glimpses of the artist’s family and her inspirations. On view is a humorous video—featuring a piano-teaching chicken—made expressly for the exhibition by her son Alex Kalman. The gallery entryway is a tableau vivant of Kalman’s New York City studio. From shoes to family photos, postcards and musical instruments, she lays out hundreds of meaningful images and objects, many of which can be found in her paintings. Other personal items include sketchbooks, illustrated correspondence with her two-year-old granddaughter, Olive, and ephemera such as a collection of crazily-named candy bars. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to “decorate” cakes, design hats for Max Stravinsky, take a scavenger hunt through Kalman’s colossal Grand Central Terminal mural, and playfully add items to Pete’s stomach on a magnetic board.

“It is such a wonderful thing to meet a gifted illustrator or a talented writer, and Maira happens to be both,” said Jane Bayard Curley, the exhibition’s curator. “She is just like her work: funny, smart, and an undisputed champion for the universal appeal of the picture book. Her highly personal and somewhat eccentric worldview appeals to anyone who wants to be verbally and visually amused and challenged.”

About Maira Kalman

Born in 1949 in Tel Aviv, Israel, Kalman moved to Riverdale in New York’s Bronx borough with her family at age four. Now a Manhattan resident, Kalman has written and illustrated 18 children’s books, including Ooh-la-la (Max in Love), What Pete Ate, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, 13 Words (a collaboration with Lemony Snicket), Looking at Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything.

She is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker magazine and is well known for her collaboration with Rick Meyerowitz on its “New Yorkistan” cover in 2001. Additional projects include illustrating Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style. Kalman also created two monthly online columns for The New York Times. The first, “The Principles of Uncertainty” (2006-07), was a narrative journal of her life. The second, “And the Pursuit of Happiness” (2009), was a yearlong exploration of American history and democracy. Both columns are now collected in book form, published by Penguin Press.

Since 2003, Kalman has had eight exhibitions at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City. In 2010, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, organized a retrospective of Kalman’s work titled Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World), which traveled to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and the Jewish Museum in New York. Her work has appeared in books published by The Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in conjunction with the 2014 exhibition Maira Kalman: My Favorite Things. A residency at the American Academy in Rome and two popular TED talks in 2007 and 2014 are testament to Kalman’s longstanding contributions to literature, art, and design. With her son Alex, Kalman co-curated the exhibition Sara Berman’s Closet, which debuted at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and is now traveling to other museums.

This exhibition is made possible with generous support from Penguin Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books.


Members’ Reception: The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children
November 9, 5:00pm - 7:00pm
5:00pm Reception
6:15pm Conversation with Maira Kalman and Guest Curator Jane Bayard Curley

Gallery Talk with Maira Kalman
November 10, 1:00pm
Free with Museum Admission
Join award-winning author/artist Maira Kalman for a gallery talk in her exhibition The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children. A book signing will follow the program.

Storytelling and Story-making in the Classroom
November 15, 9:30am - 12:30pm
$60 ($51 Members)
(3 PDPs) Join award-winning storyteller Milbre Burch for a hands-on, how-to workshop where participants explore storytelling as a form of personal expression that builds confidence, communication skills, and self-esteem. Through handouts, exercises, and demonstration, educators will learn ways to “sneak up” on storytelling themselves and encourage their students to do so, as well as how to follow up storytelling with visual and performing arts activities, and with oral, written, and kinesthetic exercises for the classroom.

A visit to the exhibition The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children will also inspire educators on ways to “mine” the memory for stories and celebrate personal histories. Participants will leave with a batch of storytelling activities and knowledge that they can use in the classroom.

Leap Before You Look: Writing Games Involving Chance, Collaboration, and Surprise
November 15, 1:00pm - 3:30pm
$30 (Members $25.50)
Adult Workshop (ages 16 and up) Join us for this generative workshop exploring a range of Surrealist writing games involving chance, collaboration, and surprise! Approaching writing with a sense of play and wonder, we will attempt to say the unexpected, unlock the door to the unconscious, and release our collective creativity. Adults of all ages and writing experiences are welcome!

A limited number of workshop spots are free for preschool teachers and elementary teachers in Title 1 Schools through The Carle Community Fund. Scholarships are awarded at random and offered on a quarterly basis. Application deadline for fall workshops is September 14.

Gouache with Illustrator Audrey Helen Weber
December 9, 10:00am - 3:00pm
$80 ($68 members)
Adult workshop (ages 16 and up)
Join illustrator Audrey Helen Weber and explore gouache as a painting medium. This is a great introduction course for people interested in working with gouache using drawing as a foundation. The galleries will open during the midday break so participants can explore, The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children.

About The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. A leading advocate in its field, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture-book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.

Eric Carle and his wife, the late Barbara Carle, co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Carle is 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 more than 750,000 visitors, including 50,000 schoolchildren. 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 schoolchildren. 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. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm. Open Mondays in July and August and during MA school vacation weeks. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for children under 18, and $22.50 for a family of four. For further information and directions, call (413) 559-6300 or visit the Museum’s website at

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