Poetry Friday: Saying goodbye to Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert

If you have not heard the news, the world of children’s literature has lost two amazing and irreplaceable talents in one week.

First came news of Ehlert’s passing on Tue., May 25 at the age of 86. The next day, Eric Carle’s family announced that he, too, had passed away on Sunday, May 23. He was 91.

It’s interesting to note that not only did these two create bold, timeless, illustrations, but they both did so with cut-paper collages. Yet although their choice of media was similar, their styles were all their own.

Ehlert was known for simple yet bright, color-saturated shapes such as what one would find in Bill Martin Jr.’s Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Simon & Schuster) or Ehlert’s own Planting a Rainbow (HMH Books for Young Readers).

Carle’s hand-painted paper collages, on the other hand, brought texture and life to books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider (World of Eric Carle) or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Henry Holt & Co.), also written by Bill Martin, Jr.

So for today, I wanted to share a poem from Carle’s beautiful Eric Carle’s Animals, Animals (World of Eric Carle), a poetry anthology compiled by Laura Whipple that blends poetry from around the world with poems from such diverse poetic icons as Valerie Worth, Shakespeare, and Ogden Nash. With more than 70 animals represented so beautifully in word and picture, it’s a poetry book no home should be without:

I throw myself to the left
I turn myself to the right.
I am the fish
Who glides in the water, who glides,
Who twists himself, who leaps.
Everything lives, everything dances, everything sings.
—African pygmy

Doesn’t that poem just seem to sing out joy and hope? When I read that, it felt it was describing Ehlert’s and Carle’s illustrations as much as it was describing life…all that leaping, gliding, dancing.


And although this is my tribute, the best tribute one can offer to folks like Carle & Ehlert is to continue sharing and purchasing their work. I certainly plan to do so; I hope you will, too.

Last Friday, Christie Wyman celebrated her birthday while hosting the Poetry Friday festivities, and this week, it’s Michelle Kogan’s turn to blow out the candles! For today’s complete Roundup, head over to Michelle’s blog to read Ruth Whitman’s “Birth Day” along with Michelle’s poem “Birth Plant,” inspired by Whitman’s poem, and to check out all of today’s links!


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14 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Saying goodbye to Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert

  1. Matt, I have been so wrapped up in my life move to-do lists that I had not heard the news. The beloved illustrators will live on in the poetry world. Thank you for sharing their timeless work.


  2. Beautiful tribute to these two powerfully talented artists and writers Matt! I used to speak-sing Lois Ehlert’s “Thump, Thump, Rat-A-Tat-Tat” over and over to my kids, we all loved it! I don’t know if I could pick out a favorite of Eric Carle’s books, though your poem from “Animals Animals” seems to sing of him and his personhood, thanks!


  3. Denise Krebs

    Matt, thank you for this sweet tribute to two special people. I somehow missed the news of Lois Ehlert’s death. As you said, both treasures to children’s literature. I have many sweet memories of reading their classics with students and my own children. I need to find Animals, Animals. Goodbye, friends.


  4. lindabaie

    I wrote in sadness and delight about them, too, Matt. I don’t know Animals, Animals. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites!


  5. haitiruth

    Thank you for sharing this – both of these artists were a big part of my kids’ childhood reading. My son (now 18) and I were laughing this week about when he was little, and crying in frustrating over a drawing that wasn’t turning out the way he wanted. He said he just wanted to be able to draw like Eric Carle. I tried to console him by telling him that Eric Carle had been drawing his WHOLE LIFE! “Well,” said my tiny son plaintively, “SO HAVE I!” Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

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