Originally published in 1969 The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle had become such a beloved addition to children’s literature that when its 40th anniversary rolled around in 2009 it had sold over 29 million copies and was published in 47 different languages. All of that, based off the simple story of a caterpillar and what it eats. The Very Hungry Caterpillar uses unique illustrations, different page styles, and simple, appealing writing.
How The Idea Was Hatched for The Very Hungry Caterpillar
There is a letter from Eric Carle to his readers inside the cover of his 40th anniversary edition of the book. He explains how one day he was playfully punching holes in a stack of paper with a hole puncher. When he looked at the holes, he was reminded of a bookworm, which then became a green worm, and then with the help of his editor, the green worm became a caterpillar.
When asked why he writes about small creatures, Eric Carle responded: “When I was a small boy, my father would take me on walks across meadows and through woods. He would lift a stone or peel back the bark of a tree and show me the living things that scurried about. He’d tell me about the life cycles of this or that small creature and then he would carefully put the little creature back into its home. I think in my books I honor my father by writing about small living things. And in a way I recapture those happy times.”
The Story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Very Hungry Caterpillar starts off with a little egg lying on a leaf. The egg hatches, and out crawls a very hungry, very tiny caterpillar. Focusing on the basic concept of the number of days in the week, we follow the famished caterpillar as he sets out to look for some food. He begins on Monday, eating through one apple. Tuesday, he eats through two pears. Wednesday he eats through tree plums, but he’s still hungry. The story goes on at he eats his way through various fruits until Saturday, when he eats his way through a plethora of item (including chocolate cake, a pickle, and ice cream cone, and Swiss cheese.)Ending up with a stomach ache, he eats through one fresh green leaf, and finds he is no longer a little caterpillar, but a big fat one. He builds a cocoon around himself and stays inside for two weeks, until he emerges as a beautiful butterfly.
This is part of what makes the book truly special, and is surely a huge part of why people fell in love with the book. Eric Carle uses a collage technique to do his illustrations, and each page has a hole in it where the caterpillar has munched through. The sizes of the pages correspond directly to how much food the caterpillar eats, being the smallest on the first day with one apple, and reaching full size by the time he eats five oranges on Friday. The drawings are bold and colorful, and the caterpillar and his surroundings wonderfully depicted.
Is The Very Hungry Caterpillar As Great As Everyone Says It Is?
Yes. Somehow, Eric Carle has managed to completely captivate all of us with this simple story and its unique illustrations. The realm of great children’s books is ruled by a nameless, indescribable thing that lies at the core of every classic book that’s won us over. It’s an irresistible thing to be sure, and it fills every page of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.