Francesca Rudkin: Eric Carle's death reminds us of the magic of children's books

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 30 May 2021, 10:16AM
Eric Carle, author of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' in 2009. Photo / AP
Eric Carle, author of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' in 2009. Photo / AP

Francesca Rudkin: Eric Carle's death reminds us of the magic of children's books

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 30 May 2021, 10:16AM

I was cleaning out rooms this week for the painters to come and give our place its first freshen up in a decade. A family really makes a mark on a house in a decade.

As I was trying to find places to stash everything I found three quite large plastic boxed filled with kid’s books. Books that belonged to me as a kid, and the large collection our kids acquired over the years.

There have been raised eyebrows at the number of books I’ve kept for my kids to pass on to their kids; but when you spent hundreds of hours reading to your child from birth, you find you’re attached to them as much as they are.  They’re actually a large part of our family life.

I think, under threat of death, I could still recite The Gruffalo, Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy, and Duck in the Truck. I’m sure you’re exactly the same, and have books you could recite from heart too - some you will have read to your kids, and maybe your grandkids.

One of them may be The Hungry Caterpillar.

When I heard The Hungry Caterpillar author and illustrator Eric Carle had passed away, aged 91 – good innings - I felt justified in my book hoarding.

Kid’s books are cool. I love the way they take life and all its messiness and present it in ways that are creative, clever and accessible.

There are many developmental reasons why reading to your children is beneficial, but I never really got past just enjoying their enjoyment of a book. Even if it meant reading it day after day after day.

To be fair, there aren’t many kid’s books that have had the impact of The Hungry Caterpillar. Maybe it was the beautiful unique illustrations, and the holes in the page, maybe it was simple idea of following a caterpillar’s diet for a week, or the wonderful surprising twist at the end.

It’s a remarkable book: published in 1969, it’s been translated into more than 60 languages and has sold the equivalent of a copy a minute since it was published.

So this week I thought I would pay tribute to an artist who enriched our lives and gave us a great gift – a book that captures youngsters attention, teaches them the days of the week, and the wonders of nature … and fortunately also happens to be short and fun to read.

So the treasure troves of boxes filled with kid’s books will remain. As I said to my partner – our kids loved those books, we bonded over reading them together, and they’ve turned them into fabulous readers.

Yip, it worked a treat, he replied as he pointed to our children, both with their heads buried in their phones.

Heartbreaking! But I’m hanging on to those books.