Eric Carle and the Story Behind ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’

November 25, 2013 @ 7:20 am | Filed under: ,

“Mommy,” asked Rilla, “how do illustrators make books?”

She knows how the writing part happens, or at least the part of it that involves someone stalking down the hall into the kitchen, muttering, staring abstractedly into the open fridge, oblivious to questions, and then disappearing back behind a closed door in a room with books piled all over the place. She wants to know about the important part, the pictures.

I start to answer with words, as is my way, but I think better of it and, on a hunch, Google “Eric Carle interview video.” As I hoped, treasure awaited us at the other end of the search button.

(Video link.)

ThingsI didn’t know: that Bill Martin Jr (author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) couldn’t read until he was twenty! And he wrote the rhythm of his stories first, then put in the words? Astonishing.

Eric Carle speaks of his own struggles in school under a strict disciplinarian teacher. “Back then, they didn’t recognize whether you were learning disabled or whatever. But I’m sure I was.”

And all the while we’re watching him make a bear in collage. I love how he cuts out circles for the bear’s eyes and turns them into ears.

There are many more videos of Mr. Carle at work. Rilla liked this one about her favorite book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.
Afterward, we found this nice video for an easy Eric Carle-style collage butterfly project.

(Video link.)

If you’re feeling more ambitious, this collage preying mantis is pretty splendid!

(Video link.)

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3 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jennifer says:

    Wow, fascinating. I never warmed to those books but I might give them another try after watching this.

  2. kimberlee says:

    Wonderful question, Rilla! My Lydia recently finished illustrating her first (published for the public) book so we have first hand answers, hee. She was always calling for one of her sisters to model (come hold the broom again!) and researched everything from native birds of Italy to Roman helmets and spent ages watching spiders weaving their webs. Piles of sketches and layouts everywhere with the chopped up pieces of text to work in…
    We watched some illustrator’s videos for inspiration – this one of Helen Oxenbury talking about her work is lovely:
    We also found some really great ones of PJ Lynch: The first one there of him working on the Gulliver mural is fabulous.
    Thanks for sharing the Eric Carle. So wonderful to hear him speak, and so interesting – rhythm before words! Have you seen Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art? I got it for my kids last Christmas and it was a big hit. I bet Rilla would love it. 🙂

  3. Melanie B says:

    I remember finding those videos a year or two ago. Such fun.