Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
On Saturday, E and I took Baby Evan up to Amherst, Massachusetts to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. I read Mr. Carle’s blog fairly regularly and he mentioned the museum was hosting an exibit of Tomie dePaola’s work this summer/fall. Now, I don’t like to play favorites with my children’s books – I have so very many favorites it would be impossible to choose one or two or twelve – but have you SEEN Tomie dePaola’s work? My favorite is The Quilt Story. It’s about a girl named Abigail whose family moves to a new home and her special quilt makes her feel safe and happy. Not to get all sappy and gross but we moved around fairly often when I was a kid, so that book meant a lot to me.
Along with the exibit of his work, Tomie dePaola was also going to be at the museum for a meet and greet on October 17th. My copy of The Quilt Story was actually already signed “To Suzanne” by Tomie, way back in 1985. So the chance to meet him now, with my own child, was really exciting. (Sadly, Tomie just had surgery on his signing hand for carpel tunnel so he passed out bookplates instead of actually signing. Still worth the trip.)
Baby Evan is way too young to understand the actual museum and a little too young to enjoy the “studio” where kids can make their own crafts, but he was well behaved and – as always – a big hit with everyone who crossed his path. Ok, not WELL behaved – I’m told there was quite a bit of screaming during Tomie’s Q & A in the auditorium but E was nice enough to watch the baby in the hall so I could stay and listen, (Tomie was very funny in sort of an curmudgeonly old man way – he said he didn’t do school visits anymore because kids are hyper and awful and too much for him) but he didn’t poop or throw up on anything. Which is pretty much the baby equivalent of a standing ovation.
I couldn’t take any pictures in the galleries, which are set up like a regular art museum with lots of white space and low lighting. There are two galleries, one holds work by Carle and the other rotates original work by various children’s illustrators. It doesn’t take very long to see all the art (especially with an impatient child) but there is a children’s library, the studio and an amazing gift shop. We may have gone overboard in the gift shop, but with our military discount admission price (only $3 instead of $9!) the trip didn’t cost very much. The museum has an area called the “Cafe” but it was really just a dining space and a couple vending machines. We left to search for food and stumbled across a giant but insanely busy country market/grocery store/bakery/deli. If we hadn’t been in a hurry to get back and meet Tomie I could have spent HOURS picking out fresh produce and locally made goat cheeses. (In case you didn’t know, Amherst is a little…crunchy. Ok, the whole place smells like hippies. College kid hippies.) We also stopped at a pumpkin farm on the way home and got our family of pumpkins for carving and took some great pictures. I highly recommend Western Mass in the fall, and the Eric Carle Museum anytime.