Extended Interview with Eric Carle
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JEFFREY BROWN: So Mr. Carle, from one little caterpillar, so much has come.
ERIC CARLE: You’re right. This is the house that the caterpillar built.
JEFFREY BROWN: Did you ever imagine such a thing?
ERIC CARLE: I never thought of that, no. Not at all.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the press material, one of the aims of the new museum is, it says, to cultivate an appreciation of picture book art as an art form. Has it been under-appreciated?
ERIC CARLE: In the past it has been under-appreciated. If you went to a bookstore, children’s books would usually be in some corner. They were rarely reviewed, and if they were reviewed, usually on the last page. But in the meantime, picture books are being appreciated, and there are several picture book galleries in this country, and they now demand very high prices even.
JEFFREY BROWN: What exactly makes picture book art art?
ERIC CARLE: I keep saying there are good pizza pies and bad pizza pies, there are good dentists and bad dentists, and there’s good art and there’s bad art, and there’s good picture book art and there’s bad picture book art. Just by saying picture book art doesn’t make it good. But we here at this museum want to show the very best.
JEFFREY BROWN: But how do you decide what is the best?
ERIC CARLE: It’s intuitive, of course, in part. … I’ve looked at art in general, and picture book art for a long time, and we hope we will do a good job. As you have seen, the opening we started with Maurice Sendak, whom I call the king of picture book art. We started with the best.
JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think is the key to reaching children through picture book art?
ERIC CARLE: Well, all children, first of all, are artists and are creative, and [books] for young children start with pictures only, and then gradually words are added to it. So the picture is the first thing of a book, and I think it stays with children for a long time, those early pictures. I remember the earliest things in my life, and they still are with me.