The Carle Commemorates Life and Works of Bernard Waber

The Carle Commemorates Life and Works
of Author/Illustrator, Bernard Waber
Tuesday, March 18 through Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last May, children and adults alike mourned the passing of beloved children’s book author and illustrator Bernard Waber. Perhaps best known for his depictions of the adventures of Lyle the crocodile, Waber wrote, illustrated, and published (through Houghton Mifflin) over thirty books over the course of his career.

This spring, Houghton Mifflin and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art have collaborated to put on a display of Waber’s work: both well-known images from his books, plus preliminary sketches and source material and even some of his earlier art from his time as a designer for Condé Nast and Time, Inc. Curated by Leonard S. Marcus, an expert on children’s literature, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber will be on view from March 18 through June 8, 2014. The exhibition will be accompanied by a 40-page catalog featuring Bernard Waber’s last interview… 

Waber’s Lyle wasn’t his only significant contribution to the world of children’s literature. His character Ira “has been a wonderful vehicle for addressing sensitive issues of childhood,” says Nick Clark, chief curator at the Carle. And Courage, published shortly after the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, illustrated how even people like you and I can be heroes, brave and strong, in their everyday lives and day-to-day choices and actions. A starred review of Courage in Publishers’ Weekly called it “a natural read-aloud, likely to spark valuable adult-child dialogue and to help youngsters conquer their own fears,” and the Minneapolis Star Tribune called it “deceptively eloquent…[teaches] kids to value their own accomplishments [and otherwise successfully deal with the] feelings of helplessness that often follow trauma.” Though over the course of his career his illustrations and subjects were often quite whimsical, Waber imbued each character and story with realistic and relatable experiences that appeal to readers of all ages.

Exhibitions at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art often include both finished pieces along with the artists’ and collaborators’ preliminary sketches and notes. Visit with you kids or youth group and use these questions to encourage discussion:

  • What can we learn from the evolution of an image or a story – from freehand sketch or scribbled note to finished product?
  • Does it seem as though Bernard Waber did a lot of editing over the course of writing his books or drawing his pictures, or do you think he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do from the beginning?
  • What do you like most about Bernard Waber’s illustrations and stories?
  • What do you think about his use of animals as main characters throughout his books?
  • Do you notice any patterns in the ways in which he characterizes them?
  • Which characters do you like best, and why?

The Carle’s hours through the end of May are: Tuesday through Friday 10am to 4pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm, and Sunday noon to 5pm. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for children under 18, and $22.50 for a family of four. For more information: 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA.

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