For those who don’t know me well, I have a little confession to make: I love children’s picture books. It’s not just the nostalgia of remembering the moments of little ones snuggled in my lap as I read them Goodnight Moon or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I love the inherent art form of picture books—the storytelling, the illustrations, the merging of imagination and reality. When we go to the library, my kids disperse for chapter books while I can’t wait to stroll past the displays featuring the newest picture book arrivals.
So last summer when we plotted our visit to the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut region, I knew one of our stops would have to be The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass. It was a little bit of a jaunt to get to it from our campground in Connecticut, but it was worth the trip.
Admission to the museum is $9 for adults and $6 for students, teachers, and seniors. The museum offers a family admission rate of $22.50 for two adults and two children. If you are planning to also visit The Norman Rockwell Museum and the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, you may want to look into purchasing Iconic Illustrators Trail passes, which will net you savings across visits to all three.
Bonus-tip: At the admissions desk kids can pick up a Caterpillar Food Search and mark off various food stickers as they find them hidden around the museum. When they turn in the completed search-and-find at the admissions desk, the kids will get a special little prize.
Depending on the time of your arrival, you may want to start your visit by watching a film about Eric Carle or one of the many films related to children’s literature. From there you can head to the main art galleries, which feature Eric Carle’s original picture book art and exhibits from other renowned authors. At the time of our visit there was a special section devoted to the Paddington series.
If the thought of bringing young children to an art gallery—even a picture book one—fills any of you parents with dread, take heart! The museum designers kept children and their needs always at the forefront of their planning, and it’s the ideal place to introduce young children to art museums. This is first evident at the entrance to the art gallery where parents will find special tote bags that their children can borrow during their time in the galleries. The bags are filled with activities to help children enjoy the exhibits on their terms.
Once inside the gallery, we also found a hands-on play area in the center of room. This was a perfect place for young children (or apparently even older ones!) to play and create while the adults finished reading the placards.
After strolling through the art exhibits, visitors can peruse the Reading Library, which offers a collection of some 4,000 picture books—both old and new. The highlight for our kiddos, however, was our stop at the Art Studio where kids (and adults!) can create their own work of art in the same vein as Eric Carle. The day of our visit, the project involved creating a scene in a paper box. The art director provided the boxes, papers, scissors and glue and the kids got to work creating.
Depending on the time of year and the weather, visitors can now explore Bobbie’s Meadow, which is set in a 100-year-old apple orchard and features a walking path, an outdoor library, and wildflower meadow. This was still under construction during our visit, but it looks like it is a lovely space for children and families!
Have you visited The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art? What treasures did you discover?