“Let's put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.” – Eric Carle
As a journalist I was told time and again by my editors to “write tight.” In other words, say everything you can about a topic so that it is crystal clear to the reader in as few words as possible, because space is always at a premium.
Writing as a journalist would be good training for the writer of children’s books, but if I were an editor I’d be asking someone like Eric Carle the best way to write tight, because he’s been an expert at it with the award-winning books that he’s produced. Of course his wonderful artwork also doesn’t hurt either.
Carle turns 86 today and shows no sign of easing up on utilizing his creativity on behalf of children everywhere. The author of the mega-selling best sellers, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Carle said he has always attempted to make his books both entertaining and educational – offering readers opportunities to learn something about the world around them. He also advises writers wanting to work in the childrens’ literature genre’ to “recognize children’s feelings, inquisitiveness and creativity.”
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has very few words but speaks volumes, has been translated into 58 languages and sold nearly 40 million copies. Overall, Carle has illustrated or written 70 books with 125 million copies in print. In 2003 he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his career contribution to American children’s literature.
“We have eyes, and we're looking at stuff all the time, all day long,” Carle said. “I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.”
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