Eric Carle, Author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Passes Away

Beloved children’s author and illustrator, Eric Carle, creator of the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar which has given millions of kids some of their earliest and most cherished literary memories, has died at age 91.

In an announcement issued by Penguin Young Leaders, Carle’s family said that he died Sunday (local time) at his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, with family members at his side.

Through books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Do You Want to Be My Friend? and From Head to Toe, Carle introduced universal themes in simple words and bright colours.

“The unknown often brings fear with it,” he once observed. “In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, was originally conceived as a book about a bookworm, called A Week with Willi the Worm. The hero, who eats through 26 different foods, was changed to a caterpillar on the advice of his editor. It has sold some 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, spawned stuffed animal caterpillars and has been turned into a stage play.

“I remember that as a child, I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent,” Carle told The New York Times in 1994. “Caterpillar is a book of hope: you, too, can grow up and grow wings.”

Carle wrote and-or illustrated more than 75 books, sometimes partnering with Bill Martin Jr or other authors, but most with Carle working alone. One of his last books was 2015’s The Nonsense Show, which centred on a parade of flying fish, cat-taming mice and circus animals.

In 2002, Carle and his late wife, Barbara Carle, founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, the non-profit arts centre is a showcase for picture book illustrations from around the world. He received lifetime achievement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Library Association.

He is survived by a son and a daughter.