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The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lives Here

Want to visit the home of some of your childhood favorites? Look no further.

By Kari Kynard Ridge on February 20, 2023

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art draws more than 50,000 people from around the world annually.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Greto, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Stepping into the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, visitors find themselves entering an adventure filled with hungry caterpillars, brown bears and colorful seahorses.

The museum’s mission is simple: To inspire a love of art and reading through picture books.

Former resident Eric Carle, the creator of more than 70 picture books, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, founded the museum with his wife, Barbara, in 2002. The goal was to create a museum in the U.S. that would honor picture books both as works of art and for their educational value. Hailed as the only full-scale museum of its kind in the country, The Carle includes a collection of more than 10,000 picture book illustrations, three art galleries, an art studio, a theater and picture book and scholarly libraries.

The museum’s sun-filled art studio features long tables and art supplies for visitors, young and old, to create their own works of art. The reading library is a comfortable space that hosts popular children’s book authors and illustrators such as Eric Carle, Mo Willems, Diane deGroat, Norton Juster and Jeff Kinney. The library also offers reading times in which children are asked to think about what happens next in a story.

In 2013, the museum received the Commonwealth Award for Creative Learning, the state’s highest award for educational programs.

Accessible Art

More than 50,000 people worldwide visit the museum each year, which has mounted more than 100 exhibitions, including The Wonderful Art of Oz and the upcoming Eric Carle Loves Japan. One gallery dedicated to Carle’s works tells the story of his life through his artwork from childhood into adulthood.

Children and adults worldwide can often be overheard discussing their shared interests and nostalgia over these books and have a common thread of how Eric Carle’s works have inspired them. Even more? Picture book art is so popular because it is so accessible to readers of all ages and stages. 

In addition to its popularity with visitors from other countries, local children and adults have embraced their museum in the Pioneer Valley, a region known for its many resident authors and illustrators. 

Destination: Picture Book Education

The museum, built aside an apple orchard next to Hampshire College, focuses on education and offers professional arts integration training for educators, as well as four on-site graduate programs in children’s literature in collaboration with Simmons College. The Carle takes its programs to local schools and sends its educators to train teachers nationwide. 

There is even a designated branch of the museum dedicated to professional development that helps educators and parents virtually participate in a variety of workshops covering various topics, including race and representation in picture books and how to engage toddlers in reading. 

It’s also a popular destination for New England school field trips where classrooms can get up close to the rotation of art exhibits and visit the museum’s interactive sites as well. 

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