Eric Carle may be best known for his beloved children’s classic, “A Very Hungry Caterpillar,” but he actually created more than 70 children’s books in his 91 years of life. His unique paper collage illustration style makes his books distinctive and instantly recognizable. With his passing this week, the world has lost not only an artist but a simply lovely human being, according to a delightful viral story shared by writer Lara B. Sharp on Facebook.
“Eric Carle, the incredible children’s book author, has passed away…
Many years ago my chonky cat Julian — I called him The Shmoo — was let out of my apartment by an irresponsible and perhaps, in hindsight, diabolical landlord of my rent-stabilized apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was absolutely devastated, of course, so I posted homemade fliers: Have You Seen My Cat? — with several of The Shmoo’s photos, and offering a substantial reward, ALL over the neighborhood.
The SchmooLara B. Sharp
Shortly after my fliers were up I received a phone call from a very concerned man telling me that HE was going out to look for my cat. Every day, for five days, morning and night, this unknown man called me to ask after my lost cat, and every day he reported back to me about his own search… He was so unbelievably kind to me, while I sobbed into my landline telephone… I told him that I had no education, and no career, and no family, and a boyfriend who was all Boy, and No friend… The Shmoo, my rescued dumpster cat, was my Everything… I talked and talked and talked about myself, and he endlessly listened…
Eventually, my extremely overweight cat was returned to me from the kitchen of the Italian restaurant a block away. He spent the whole time there, eating ravioli and meatballs. Aside from being four pounds heavier and stinking of roasted garlic and stewed tomatoes, he was fine.
The SchmooLara B. Sharp
The first person I called with the great news was the nice man on the phone!
He was as happy as I was about the return of The Shmoo, and he asked if he could meet him… Normally I’d be like, ‘Nah bro, you ain’t gettin’ my address’, but this unknown, older gentleman was so kind and so supportive of me – like the dad that I’d never had – that I said I’d love to meet him, and have him meet my fat, beloved kitty…
When he arrived, because I knew he loved cats, and not much else about him, and because I wanted to express my gratitude, I gave him a huge stuffed cat from FAO Schwartz as a gift, and after he met The Shmoo, as he was leaving, he handed me a thin envelope…
Inside, was a beautiful book, called ‘Have You Seen My Cat’, and it was signed by the author, Eric Carle.
The sensitive, selfless person who listened to my sobbing, for days on end, called me twice a day, and physically searched all of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for my chubby lost cat, was the famous children’s book author Eric Carle.
The revelation was so stunning to me that terminal shyness set in, and I never phoned him again.
To be treated like a daughter, when I’d never had a father, and by such an important person, who cared so much about a kitty that I loved so dearly, meant more to me than I was able to express at that time…
All these years later, it still means just as much. Many years later, when The Shmoo eventually passed away, I had him cremated with an Eric Carle postcard of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’.
I’ve never told this story before, because it was so precious of an experience that I kept it to myself.
I’m sharing it today, because I have so much love for him, and I always will, and because I can’t stop thinking of him. I will never, ever forget him.
For five whole days, I had the world’s greatest dad.
‘Have You Seen MY Eric Carle?'”
People are loving Sharp’s story, as it gives us a glimpse into the private character of the man most of us only know through his kids’ books. What a lovely tribute to an author who not only brought joy into the lives of millions of families with his books, but who also took the time to help a stranger who needed support.
Rest in peace, Mr. Carle. Thank you for making our world a bit brighter while you were here.