Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This is just going to make Brooke jealous...

...but that's not the reason I'm posting it. Well, not the only reason. (Come visit! Come visit!)

My friend Christina is in a graduate museum studies program (woo hoo!) and since she has this week off work we piled the kids in the car and drove out to Amherst, home of (drum roll, please) The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It's a long drive — two hours without potty stops, and believe me, we made potty stops. But so, so worth it.

  • Trina Schart Hyman drawings. I adored her art as a kid reading Cricket magazine: all the delicate long-limbed fairies and arching trees and picture-window borders around everything.

  • A Leo Lionni illustration of his adorable mice. The Greentail Mouse was my favorite book as a kid. And it's back in print!

  • An illustration by an artist whose name I don't remember of King Midas descending his staircase. It's obviously meant to be a two-page spread inside the book. The staircase is curved, and everything behind Midas is gold; everything in front of him is vibrant blues and reds and brilliant flowers. If you look at it out of the corner of your eye you can practically see him moving.

  • An Arnold Lobel drawing of Frog playing the violin.

  • A Kinuko Y. Craft illustration from Cinderella, hung at Beth's level, absolutely mesmerizing to a princess-obsessed three-year-old.

  • Two lovely little Beatrix Potter illustrations of alternate scenes in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. My mom embroidered some pictures from the Beatrix Potter books for me when I was a baby, and they're hanging in the girls' bedroom now; Sarah recognized these as similar to the pictures in her room. Wow.
And then there's the gallery devoted to Eric Carle's work, celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Ducklings from 10 Little Rubber Ducks! Side-by-side comparisons of the art from the original (1969) version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the redone illustrations in the 1987 version! A video of Carle showing how he produces his gorgeous painted-tissue-cutout pieces!

I also have to add how impressed I am with the staff's understanding of their audience. The pictures are hung lower than you'd expect — they're still inside an adult's viewing range, but they're also at a good level for, say, a six-year-old (I still had to pick up my kids to show them most things). Each gallery has wide benches to sit on, and a basket on each bench containing the books corresponding to the artwork on the wall (we read book after book after book to the kids this way). In the Carle gallery, the basket also holds several little stuffed hungry caterpillars that kids can carry with them — there's a note attached asking them to see how many caterpillars they can see on the walls. Given kids' need to touch things to really experience them (every time we go to a museum I find myself repeating the mommy mantra: "Look with your eyes, not with your hands") this is genius: the girls walked around looking at the art on the walls and stroking the caterpillars instead of reaching up to touch things. And there's a library in the building, with story time twice a day. We spent four hours in the museum and didn't even get to the art studio, didn't sit in the auditorium for one of the performances by students from a local performing arts high school. (We did visit the shop, though, and I can only justify the amount of money I spent there by telling myself that I did get in free with Christina's NEMA membership, the DVD of Carle explaining his art is a Mothers Day present for my mom, and Beth and Sarah really shouldn't leave a museum like that without new books. I didn't buy any Carle-designed fabric, but I suppose that's only a matter of time.)

Oh, and the cafe has caterpillar cookies. Not what you think: they're round, and chocolate-chip. But each one has a little hole eaten through the center.

Add it up: it's an eight-hour day. I don't think we'll be going again for a good long, May, when two new exhibits will be up....


Anonymous said...

Fabulous day! I would have loved to be with you! It's so great to have such wonderful resources nearby. I bet the girls loved it all!

Kazzy said...

Sounds awesome. I really like Lionni too. My older boys got a lot of him when they were smaller!

Amanda said...

That sounds like fun! I need to figure out what there is to here in the great state of Utah, and then wait for my kid to get a bit older . . .

mark bodah said...

hi, the Midas piece you mentioned was i believe by Kinuko Y. Craft. from "King Midas and the Golden Touch@

i saw it there myself!

Rebecca Miller Goggins said...

Hi Libby --- We are so glad you had a great visit! Next time, you'll definitely have to visit the Art Studio too. I wanted to let you know another way you can feel good about your shop purchases -- all proceeds support the Museum and its mission. :-)

We have a new Facebook page, as of last week. Can we post your blog there?

Many thanks --

Rebecca Miller Goggins
Assistant Director,
Development and Marketing
The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art

Libby said...

Thanks, Mark — good to know! (Sigh. Now I'm going to have to pick up a copy of the book.)

And Rebecca, by all means do!

Brooke said...

(Still kicking myself for not going out there in fall 2007!! Argh!)

Did you notice that the child-size toilet seats have caterpillar-shaped seats? They're all about the cra-zay-zy details out at the Carle. Sounds like you had a great time!