Monday, October 5, 2015

Eric Carle Museum

We found a rare free weekend on our calendar so we decided to head north to see Aunt Elva and her children. We missed her 99th birthday celebration last summer, but still wanted to see her so we built a weekend around the visit.

Friday was a half-day for Ashley, it was also a very quiet day at school for her, so with her teacher's blessing we played hokey for the day and left in the morning.

Our first stop was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. As a children's librarian wannabe, I can't believe it has taken me this long to visit. Eric Carle is the illustrator and author of many children's books, but he is most famous for "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" about a caterpillar whose appetite kept growing until finally he becomes a butterfly. 

For me the highlight of the museum was the movie about his life. He was born in Syracuse, New York to a German mother. His family moved back to Germany in 1935 when he was about 6. Nothing in the movie talked about life in Germany in the mid-1930s. The biographic fast forwards to 1952 when he moved back to New York with a portfolio and $40 in his pocket (he was 23 at the time). Actually the movie did not give that much detail, I gleaned that from his official online biography, which also skipped over Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, which must have had a huge impact on his life.

His mother supported his art telling people not to disturb him while he was creating. He went into advertising before becoming a children's illustrator later in life. One thing we did not learn from the movie is why if he lives in and grew up in Syracuse, NY is his museum in Amherst, MA? There must be a story, which I could find out with a little more research.

The museum has a room in which you can create collage art. A younger Ashley would have spent hours there. Our teenage Ashley was hungry (like the caterpillar, she too is transforming) and was encouraging us towards dinner. They also have a library filled with children's books. Ahh...mecca. Of course the larges section was dedicated to Eric Carle books.

The museum also has three rooms of artwork. Rooms where photographs are not allowed in order to best preserve the pictures. Two of the rooms rotate every few months with a variety of illustrators. The third has Eric Carle artwork in it, but even that one says it will close in March 2016. Hopefully to be replaced with some other artwork by him?

On our trip we could see Gray Matters: David Macaulay's Black and White (May 19-November 29, 2015) and A Renaissance Man: The Art of Fred Marcellino (June 30-October 25, 2015). I was familiar with both of their works. I had read a book illustrated by Marcellino through my librarian's group.

The Eric Carle room was divided into two sections: From A to Z (as always, some letters were a stretch) and a part about his newest book, The Nonsense Show, which comes out this month. There was also a giant blank wall begging for something. 

From there we battled New England traffic to go to Northampton for dinner. Northampton is like a hippie version of Princeton -- a college town (Smith College) with tattoo parlors. All I can say is it works. We had dinner at The Local, a burger shop, and ice cream at Herrell's (even I splurged and had a few bites of their chocolate peppermint ice cream).

The town has a flavor. Not of ice cream, though, but of atmosphere. There are local shops and restaurants, street musicians, and life. They also have a bike trail running through it to New Haven, CT (another college town). The

Framington Canal Rail to Trail is 84 miles long. Perhaps on a future trip we'll bring our bicycles up and take a spin on part of the trail. 

It was a fun start to our weekend.

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