A Slice of Life: A Visit to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

sols_6Now that the month-long Slice of Life challenge has ended, I’m hoping to continue sharing slices every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers to read more amazing writing. Thank you for hosting this weekly Slice of Life Challenge!

Last Friday, a friend and I hopped in the car and drove to Amherst, MA and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to see their celebration of Garth Williams’s beloved illustrations of Charlotte’s Web.


Going to The Carle is one of my favorite day trips. When you arrive, you’re greeted by this bug:


As you enter the museum, you step into by a large space filled with light and color. Panels of bright primary colors adorn one long wall of the Great Hall. My friend and I spent some time trying to decide what each panel reminded us of, and which one we liked best.

Fire or autumn leaves?
A field of waving grass?
The ocean or fish, or both?
Warm summer sunshine!
A cozy spot to sit and read.

There are auditoriums for lectures and films, as well as an art studio where kids can make their own colorful creations. I’ve always wanted to go in and make some art myself, but it’s really for the kids. More of Eric Carle’s whimsical art is hung in this hallway.

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The West Gallery is devoted to Carle’s work, but the theme shifts on a regular basis. The current show, Feathers, Fins, and Fur, features penguins, cardinals, and more. In addition, there are two galleries for special exhibits. The larger East Gallery has had shows featuring the work of Tomi dePaola, Virginia Lee Burton, and illustrations from various editions of The Wizard of Oz, to name just a few. On display until June 9th is Latino Folk Tales: Cuentos Populares-Art by Latino Artists. The vivid colors and styles of these artists bring the tradition of magical realism to life.

The exhibit in the smaller Central Gallery was the main reason for our visit.


Some Book, Some Art showcased Garth Williams’s classic illustrations for Charlotte’s Web. It was fascinating to see the early ideas Williams had for the cover of the book and his process of going from rough sketch to finished art. There were also early studies of what Charlotte herself would look like. In one draft, she bore quite a resemblance to the Mona Lisa! This small, humble, gallery is currently filled with radiant, terrific art.

An unexpected treasure of the exhibit was this poem, written by E.B White to his wife, Katherine, just before they were married.

“Natural History”

The spider, dropping down from twig,

Unwinds a thread of his devising;

A thin, premeditated rig,

To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space

In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,

He builds a ladder to the place

From which he started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,

In spider’s web a truth discerning,

Attach one silken strand to you

For my returning.

I will return the The Carle again and again, just as I return to Charlotte’s Web from time to time. I love the beauty contained within both.