The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Trivia: Eric Carle turns 90 this summer.
The trip: About two hours of driving up I-95 and I-91
Admission: $9 for adults and $6 for kids
Why would you go: Kids will learn about the book-making process, get inspired, have a chance for hands-on arts activities and have a lot of fun.
Lunch: Atkins Farms Country Market is just around the corner (note: we didn't have a chance to check it out but it was recommended to us by the museum and online reviews seem overwhelmingly positive)
Eric Carle is a legend in the picture book category. And if for some reason you don't know his name you almost certainly are well acquainted with his most famous creation – The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It's a book that every kid under, say 50 or so, would recognize it in a heartbeat.
A fairly new creation in the Carle world, though, only 16 years young, is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art – a must-visit for everyone, especially if hailing from our neck of the woods, which happens to be a very sensible, even for toddlers, about two-hours or less by car.
And while all this is certainly impressive and by itself a reason to trek up to Amherst, it is the atmosphere and creative resources that make the museum a destination for a family field trip.
50 Years of Silvester and the Magic Pebble is featured this summer in the intimate setting of the Central Gallery and offers kids a chance to play with a life-size version of the rock from William Steig's famous picture book. This exhibition will be on view until December 1.
In the East Gallery, kids and adults alike can travel on the remarkable journey offered by the meticulously detailed drawings of Peter Sis, on view until October 27.
Regularly scheduled programs during the day include story times at the library, movies and other educational exercises. Special events are also held frequently.
The self-serve cafeteria space offers free coffee and a vending machine with snacks, but you can bring your own lunch and either sit inside or enjoy a great day on the outdoor patio.
You might also want to try the lush meadow for a quiet picnic enhanced by the number of available objects designed to inspire and entertain your kids. Bobbie's Meadow, named after Eric Carle's late wife who passed away in 2015, was opened last year and features a tranquil space with musical instruments, blocks and The Very Little Library complete with a number of picture books. During the summer the museum offers outdoor storytimes, creative movement and art-making.
The museum's media kit explains the science that goes behind their exhibitions, flow and events, including the Visual Thinking Strategies and the Reggio Emilia approach to early education - “approaches designed to foster critical and creative thinking and personal connection with the world of art and expressive languages.” But for most of us only one thing would matter. And, at least my kids, unbeknownst to them playing the role of museum critics, had a great time and love it.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is open daily Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturday – 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. And Sunday – 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday. Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for kids. It is located at 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA. For more information you can call them at (413) 559-6300 or go to www.carlemuseum.org
Happy Birthday Eric Carle!
Bonus stop: For added excitement, if your kids haven't fallen asleep after hours of fun at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a few miles down the road, as you head back home, you might want to stop by the Skinner Museum (33 Woodbridge St, South Hadley, MA), which features about 5,000 objects of any kind – from pebbles to medieval knight armor, a real size single log-carved canoe and everything in between. Don't miss the large collection of eggs of all sizes and the fossils that all kids seem to love. And don't go without asking for details on the large Japanese temple replica, made by the Quakers after they tore down the real deal in Japan. Every object has a story, only there are so many objects there that some stories are lost forever. Yet, if you are into history and folklore you will find this place a lot of fun. You will feel like you are in an episode of History Channel's American Pickers, only nothing is for sale. Which is probably a good thing.
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