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Local Betty Field Trip: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


A Day Trip to the Eric Carle Museum

It's been a few many years since I was called upon to read the Very Hungry Caterpillar to anyone but I remember it fondly.  So when given the chance to visit the Eric Carle museum of Picture Book Art, I jumped.

Full disclosure, it's two hours away in Amherst.  Do not be put off.  It is worth the drive time and more. You can easily pack the car with kids from tiny to teen and spend the entire day there. Here is what you'll find:

The museum is tucked into the rolling farm land of the Pioneer Valley between Amherst and  North Hampton. Drive past cow barns and cornfields in a landscape not often seen in Eastern MA. It's good to see {and smell} animals and agriculture - to remind you it's not all cities and finance.  

The first thing you notice is how spacious the space is. Nice. No jostling, no crowds. Easy parking, an open coat room to drop your gear,  lockers to stash valuables, and a quick admissions line. Sigh. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. This museum is thankfully do-able for everyone:

Visit the art room first, where you can create a 'project of the day'. On the day we visited, the event was to create a character out of paper and then 'dress' it. Paper, pens, glue, all manner of art supplies were laid out on child sized tables. Kids were either engaged in art, or {deciding not to create that day} playing with toys in the spacious light filled room. Finished work was displayed and drying, ready to be admired and then taken home by the mini artists.

"Glue, yuck!" No problem. There are three small galleries that house exhibits of picture book illustration. You may recognize the artists {like Rohl Dahl's illustrator William Steig} or they may be a new discovery. In either case both you and your children will be charmed. The art is beautiful, whimsical, and sometimes vaguely creepy in a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale kind of a way- I mean 7 dwarf men, hiding a young princess who cooks and cleans for them in their tiny home deep in the forest, in exchange for being protected from her human-heart-eating-stepmother-queen…what?? 

But we digress…

The galleries that house the original works of picture book art are small and very child friendly.  The illustration is located next to a plaque that tells you the passage in the book that the art is meant to illustrate. Like we said, the work is wonderful, and not only for young ones. It's fascinating to see how the artist chooses to illustrate the written word. "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall" can be interpreted a million ways- it's fascinating to see how one person envisions it: close up? detailed? what does Humpty actually look like? They are all interesting artistic choices, and all in a children's picture book. Who knew?

"No more paintings!" Then there's a lovely cozy library stuffed with children's books to read aloud.

"Ugh, books!" Then there's a big auditorium, and while we were there, three different performances graced the stage throughout the day. A puppet show, a musical troupe and a play.  

"No plays, I'm hungry!" Ok, then there's a large cafe tricked out with treats for kids big and small. Again, spacious and airy {do you think we have an issue with crowds?}

Finally, there's a stellar bookstore {you know how Betty loves a good museum bookstore} that's got interesting enough swag to intrigue everyone. You'll find darling posters, great toys, and books that you and an art/design/graphic novel loving teenager will like too.  

So there, something for everyone. And an enthusiastic yes! to jumping in the car and treating your Very Hungry Caterpillars to a trip to the Eric Carle Museum.  

More about the museum here>