Eric Carle exhibit brings ‘A Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to life

The Eric Carle exhibit at the Mayborn Museum offered colorful activities for kids to interact with. Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor

A new exhibit just crawled into town. The Mayborn Museum Complex opened the “Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit” on Saturday, inspired by the life and works of Eric Carle, the author of iconic children’s books like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “The Very Lonely Firefly,” and “The Very Busy Spider.”

Entering its doors, visitors are met with bright colors, exciting sounds and at the right hours, a cacophony of giggles from the little kids exploring the immersive exhibit. Some of the activities include an oversized patch of grass to let kids experience the feeling of being as small as a bug, an interactive projection where you can help lonely fireflies find friends and an area where attendees can create using Eric Carle’s famous watercolor and tissue paper illustrations.

Anna McKay, class of ’09, has been working for the Mayborn for three years as the museum engagement manager. Some of her duties include supervising some of the museum volunteers and managing the art studio in the exhibit, an element that offers valuable learning opportunities, McKay said.

“It’s definitely hands-on and geared for our early learners,” McKay said. “It makes the books come to life. The books that even I read as a child come to life and you can do different things like for ‘The Very Busy Spider’ you get to weave a spider web, and for ‘The Very Lonely Firefly’ you get to help the fireflies find some friends. It just gives them the experience to emulate what Eric Carle has done with his experience as what has inspired him to create.”

Beyond the colorful interactive elements, the exhibit includes several opportunities to get to know the man behind the unique books and illustrations like high-quality prints of Carle’s doodles, a cozy reading nook and informational plaques describing the author and his work.

According to one of the informational panels, Carle was born June 25, 1929 in Syracuse, New York, where he quickly discovered his love for nature and curiosity about small creatures. After a turbulent upbringing involving moving to Germany, living through WWII, moving back to the U.S. and later being drafted into the U.S. Army, Carle didn’t become involved in writing or illustration until 1966 when he illustrated “Brown Bear, Brown Bear.” The author quickly found his passion, and shortly after in 1969, Carle wrote and illustrated his crowning book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The book has since been translated into 62 languages with over 38 million copies sold.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s” publication—something the Mayborn is excited to celebrate while the exhibit holds its residence there.

Rebecca Nall works as the assistant director of exhibits, communication and visitor services. She books all of the traveling exhibits that come through the Mayborn.

“This exhibit is from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh,” Nall said. “It was developed through a collaboration with the Eric Carle Foundation and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. They’re one of the best children’s museums in the country, and so we are very excited to be working with them.”

Part of the attraction to the exhibit can be attributed to the timelessness of Carle’s many books, particularly “A Very Hungry Caterpillar,” which has established itself as a colorful multigenerational classic, Nall said.

“It was part of my childhood,” Nall said. “It’s now part of my children’s childhood. I think there are a lot of people who, whether they have an education background or a parental background or even from their childhood, remember these books and love them. He is such a prolific children’s writer and his art is so unique.”

Since it’s opening, the exhibit has already garnered positive feedback from its visitors.

“So far, we’ve had a great response,” Nall said. “We’ve had a lot of preschools that are excited about coming. We have a lot of school tours already scheduled. A lot of educators are very excited about this exhibit, as well as families.”

The exhibit will be open until May 12 and is open to all ages. Baylor students receive free admission to the museum.