Jump to content

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Front cover illustration
AuthorEric Carle
IllustratorEric Carle
GenreChildren's literature (Children's picture book)
PublisherWorld Publishing Company (US)
Hamish Hamilton (UK)
Publication date
June 3, 1969
Publication placeUnited States
Media typeHardcover, Board book
ISBN0-399-22690-7 (US)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a 1969 children's picture book designed, illustrated, and written by American children's author and illustrator Eric Carle. The plot follows a very hungry caterpillar that consumes a variety of foods before pupating and becoming a butterfly. It incorporates elements that contribute to early childhood education, including counting, days of the week, and food. It also incorporates a butterfly’s life cycle.

Since its publication, the book sold more than 50 million copies, been translated into more than 60 languages, won numerous awards, and been adapted for television.[1] It has been acclaimed as "one of the greatest childhood classics of all time"[2] and praised for its "iconic" art style, featuring collage artwork and pages with holes where the caterpillar "ate" through.[1]


On an early Sunday morning, "a tiny and very hungry caterpillar" hatches from his egg and immediately begins searching for food. For the following five days, the caterpillar eats through an increasing quantity of fruit: one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, four strawberries on Thursday, and five oranges on Friday. However, the caterpillar remains hungry. On Saturday, he feasts on a piece of chocolate cake, an ice-cream cone, a pickle, a slice of Swiss cheese, a slice of salami, a lollipop, a piece of cherry pie, a sausage, a cupcake and a slice of watermelon. Later that night, the caterpillar gets a stomach ache from overeating.

The following Sunday, the caterpillar eats a green leaf, relieving his stomach ache. Now a "big, fat caterpillar", he builds a cocoon around himself and stays inside of it for more than two weeks. Afterwards, he nibbles a hole and pushes his way out, emerging as a large, multi-colored butterfly.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the third book Carle illustrated and only the second he wrote himself.[3]

The plot originated as a story called A Week with Willi the Worm, which featured a bookworm named Willi. Carle was inspired to write the story after using a hole punch that reminded him of a worm.[4] Ann Beneduce, Carle's editor, advised him that a worm would not make a likable protagonist, instead recommending a caterpillar.[5][6]

Carle was allegedly inspired to include holes in the pages where the caterpillar had "eaten" through the various foods, by differently shaped books he had read as a child in Germany.[5]


The book was initially published by the World Publishing Company (US) in 1969. It was originally printed in Japan due to high US publishing costs resulting from the holes in some of the pages.[5] Currently, the book is published by Penguin Random House,[7] who acquired the title from Carle in 2019.[8]

Since its release, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold over 50 million copies, approximately one copy every thirty seconds.[1]

Moreover, the book has been translated into more than 60 languages,[1] including Arabic,[9] Dutch, French,[10] Spanish,[11] German,[12] Japanese,[13] Italian,[14] Portuguese, Swedish,[15] Russian,[16] and Hebrew.[17]



The book has won numerous awards including the American Institute of Graphic Arts Award in 1970, the Best Children's Books of England in 1970, the Selection du Grand Prix des Treize in France in 1972, and the Nakamori Reader's Prize in Japan in 1975.[18] Additionally, The New York Times also cited it as one of the "Ten Best Picture Books of the Year" in 1969.[19]

Furthermore, the book placed at number 199 in the Big Read, a 2003 poll conducted by the BBC to determine the United Kingdom's best loved books. It was one of the few picture books to place on the list.[20] Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association listed the book as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".[21] Five years later, a School Library Journal survey of readers named The Very Hungry Caterpillar as the second-best children's book.[5]

In 2020, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was number ten on the list of "Top Check Outs of All Time" by the New York Public Library.[22] It also won the best children's classic accolade at the Sainsbury Children’s Book Awards in 2019.[23] Carle said that this award was a "perfect way" to celebrate the book's 50th anniversary.[23]


The Very Hungry Caterpillar introduces Lepidoptera life stage concepts depicting metamorphosis from a ‘hungry caterpillar’ to a ‘beautiful butterfly'; the Royal Entomological Society endorsed the book due to the scientific accuracy of this transformation.[citation needed]

Educational usage and influence[edit]

This book incorporates educational themes such as counting, the days of the week, foods, and a butterfly's life stages. However, it doesn't come across as didactic; instead, it subtly presents information often without children even realizing it.[1] It is frequently utilized by elementary school teachers, librarians, and parents as a teaching aid, with activities developed that complements the book.[24][25] Additionally, the illustration facilitates understanding without reading.[26]


The book contains "familiar sequences" or patterns when referencing days of the week and numbers.[27] These patterns aid young readers in reading naturally and can reflect their own knowledge of the world.[27] They encourage word recognition strategies during reading, rather than prior to it.[27]

The book's predictability facilitates Oral Cloze exercises, in which an adult reader can omit a day of the week or number and the child can insert it.[28] These exercises help children gain confidence in predicting language and enforcing pre-existing knowledge.[28]

Common Core[edit]

The new elementary Common Core standards emphasize incorporating more informational texts into primary education. Books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar bridges the gap between informational texts and elementary engagement.[29] This captivating book does not only entertain young learners, but also teaching lessons on counting, days of the week, and metamorphosis.[29]

Storytelling/classroom activities[edit]

The format of The Very Hungry Caterpillar allows for expansion into a classroom activities,[26] where children can engage in creative practice and storytelling by inserting their own foods and drawings into each day of the week.[26] Using the book's format, children can incorporate their own interests; thus, telling their own stories.[26] When they share their renditions with peers, students further engage with storytelling.[26]

Secondary school usage[edit]

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has met Beowulf in secondary classrooms in an effort to prompt academic and sophisticated discussion of picture books.[30] Main reasons for integration include the universal themes of picture books and providing visual aids for comprehension.[30] The Very Hungry Caterpillar has themes that extend past young children and its integration with Beowulf can help engage secondary-aged students.[30]

Healthy eating[edit]

This book has been used in the fight against childhood obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, philanthropic groups, and anti-obesity campaigns utilize this book to teach children about healthy eating.[31] In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent out special copies of the book, with associated learning tools, to health providers, for a campaign to healthy eating in the U.S.[32] Carle supports the usage of his book to promote healthy eating.[citation needed]

Cultural influence[edit]

This book was used by former first lady Barbara Bush as part of her campaign to promote literacy.[33] In 1999, the pizza restaurant Pizza Hut asked 50 U.S. governors to name their favorite books from childhood. The then-governor of Texas, George W. Bush, named The Very Hungry Caterpillar, despite having been 23 years old at the time of its publication.[2]

In 2009, Google celebrated the book's 40th anniversary by rendering the logo on its main search page in the style used in the book.[4][34]

UK/US releases[edit]


The Very Hungry Caterpillar was adapted for UK television on September 1, 1993. Then, on October 17, 1994, it was released as a VHS video distributed by PolyGram Video. It was re-released on June 16, 1997, distributed by Channel 5 Video, a sub-label of PolyGram. On March 18, 2002, it was re-released again by Universal Pictures as part of an anthology called The World of Eric Carle that included The Very Hungry Caterpillar along with four other Eric Carle stories.[citation needed]

This anthology utilized a classical music-influenced soundtrack by Wallace and Gromit and Peppa Pig composer Julian Nott. Narration on the UK releases were performed by Roger McGough and Juliet Stevenson; this version was briefly released in the US by Scholastic.[35] Then, on August 5, 1995, Disney released a US dub version with narration by Brian Cummings and Linda Gary.[36] After Disney's adaptation, the film and TV rights were sold for £1 million.[37]


The Very Hungry Caterpillar was released on DVD on April 24, 2006, as a part of an anthology called The World of Eric Carle; it was presented by the Illuminated Film Company and broadcast by Ventura Distribution.[38]

The anthology, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and four other stories, was also released on DVD in the US by Disney and in the AU by ABC DVD.[39] The DVD was also adapted into a 10-track CD, titled The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories. [citation needed]

Ancillary products[edit]

There have been multiple unique book editions,[40] with personalized features. Games, pop-up books,[40] a book/card game combination via University Games,[41] and an educational video game – The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABCs – released by CYBIRD Co. Ltd. for WiiWare in 2010.[42]


In the story, the caterpillar builds a cocoon, and a butterfly emerges. In reality, a caterpillar that makes a cocoon emerges as a moth, while a butterfly will emerge from a chrysalis; various media sources have highlighted this inaccuracy.[43]

Eric Carle responded to this by stating:

"And here's my unscientific explanation: My caterpillar is very unusual. As you know caterpillars don't eat lollipops and ice cream, so you won't find my caterpillar in any field guides. But also, when I was a small boy, my father would say, 'Eric, come out of your cocoon.' He meant I should open up and be receptive to the world around me. For me, it would not sound right to say, 'Come out of your chrysalis.' And so poetry won over science!"[44]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Fetters, Ashley (March 20, 2019). "How The Very Hungry Caterpillar Became a Classic". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on June 14, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Taylor, Kate (October 22, 2004). "Eat your heart out". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  3. ^ "The genius of Eric Carle". Apollo Magazine. June 2, 2021. Retrieved April 13, 2024.
  4. ^ a b Khan, Urmee (March 20, 2009). "Google celebrates Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar". www.telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on June 17, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Bird, Betsy (June 28, 2012). "Top 100 Picture Books #2: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle". School Library Journal. Archived from the original on April 27, 2022. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  6. ^ Metrowebukmetro (March 20, 2009). "Hungry Caterpillar author on zoo maths". Metro. Archived from the original on April 27, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  7. ^ "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Trademark of Penguin Random House LLC - Registration Number 3945957 - Serial Number 77981105 :: Justia Trademarks". trademarks.justia.com. Archived from the original on March 20, 2023. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  8. ^ Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. (November 5, 2019). "'Very Hungry Caterpillar' Author Eric Carle Sells Company to Penguin Random House". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on April 27, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  9. ^ "The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Arabic and English: Eric Carle : 9781852691240". www.bookdepository.com. Archived from the original on November 1, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  10. ^ Carle, Eric (1999). La chenille qui fait des trous. Internet Archive. Namur [Belgium]: Mijade. ISBN 978-2-87142-174-0.
  11. ^ Carle, Eric (2002). La oruga muy hambrienta. Penguin Young Readers. ISBN 039923960X.
  12. ^ Carle, Eric (1969). Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt. Gerstenberg. ISBN 3806742596.
  13. ^ Carle, Eric (2001). はらぺこあおむし. 上誼文化. ISBN 9577620981.
  14. ^ Carle, Eric (1989). Il piccolo Bruco Maisazio. Mondadori. ISBN 8804323329.
  15. ^ Carle, Eric (1998). Den mycket hungriga larven. Bonnier Carlsen. ISBN 9163812134.
  16. ^ Карл, Эрик (2008). Очень голодная гусеница. Розовый жираф. ISBN 9785903497041.
  17. ^ "הוצאת הקיבוץ המאוחד - ספרית פועלים". www.kibutz-poalim.co.il (in Hebrew). Archived from the original on May 2, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  18. ^ "Eric Carle Collection". archive.ph. August 5, 2012. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  19. ^ "Awards". Eric Carle. Archived from the original on May 11, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  20. ^ "BBC - The Big Read - Top 200 Books". www.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on April 19, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  21. ^ "National Education Association | NEA". www.nea.org. Archived from the original on December 7, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  22. ^ Carlson, Jen (January 13, 2020). "These Are The NYPL's Top Check Outs of All Time". Gothamist. Archived from the original on August 14, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  23. ^ a b "Children's classic storybook The Very Hungry Caterpillar wins award". Early Years Educator. Archived from the original on January 30, 2023. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  24. ^ The librarian's complete guide to involving parents through children's literature, Anthony D. Fredericks, Libraries Unlimited, 1997. ISBN 1-56308-538-0 p. 93.
  25. ^ Teaching Terrific Fours, Annal Jones, Carol Crownover, Elizabeth Jones. Humanism Learning, 2006. Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Missing ISBN. p. 92.
  26. ^ a b c d e Roney, R. C. "Back to the Basics with Storytelling." The Reading Teacher 42.7 (1989): 520-3. JSTOR. Web.
  27. ^ a b c Rhodes, Lynn K. "I can Read! Predictable Books as Resources for Reading and Writing Instruction." The Reading Teacher 34.5 (1981): 511-8. JSTOR. Web.
  28. ^ a b Wiseman, Donna L. "Helping Children Take Early Steps Toward Reading and Writing." The Reading Teacher 37.4 (1984): 340-4. JSTOR. Web.
  29. ^ a b Neuman, Susan B., and Roskos, Kathleen. "Helping Children Become More Knowledgeable through Text." The Reading Teacher 66.3 (2012): 207-10. JSTOR. Web.
  30. ^ a b c Neal, Judith C., and Moore, Kay. "'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' Meets 'Beowulf' in Secondary Classrooms". Journal of Reading 35.4 (1991): 290-6. JSTOR. Web.
  31. ^ "Deconstructing 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar': Excellent food choices, portion control needs work". Los Angeles Times. March 8, 2011. Archived from the original on April 27, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  32. ^ "Groups Hope "Hungry Caterpillar" Helps Fight Fat". Washington Times. Associated Press. March 8, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2011.
  33. ^ Tate, Mikayla (June 10, 2019). "PSCD Summer Reading: The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Provo City School District. Retrieved July 24, 2020. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been translated into 40 different languages and was also used by Barbara Bush as part of her literacy campaign.
  34. ^ First Day of Spring 2009 - Design by Eric Carle, archived from the original on May 9, 2022, retrieved April 27, 2022
  35. ^ Opening to The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Stories by Eric Carle 1993 VHS (Rare), archived from the original on April 27, 2022, retrieved April 27, 2022
  36. ^ The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories. Walt Disney Productions. August 5, 1995.
  37. ^ "Counting on the Caterpillar". July 26, 2005. Archived from the original on August 16, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  38. ^ The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Animated Film. Retrieved May 5, 2024 – via www.youtube.com.
  39. ^ The Very Hungry Caterpillar And Other Stories, archived from the original on May 2, 2022, retrieved May 2, 2022
  40. ^ a b "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book - Eric Carle - Penguin Group (USA)". April 25, 2009. Archived from the original on April 25, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  41. ^ The Very Hungry Caterpillar Spinner: Book And Card Game. Univ Games. January 30, 2007. ISBN 978-1-57528-890-1. Archived from the original on July 16, 2023. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  42. ^ "The Nintendo Download: Countdown To Excitement". Kotaku. September 20, 2010. Archived from the original on June 28, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  43. ^ Giaimo, Giaimo (November 16, 2016). "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lied to You As a Child". Atlas Obscura. Archived from the original on July 21, 2022. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  44. ^ "Many of you ask, why the butterfly in The Very Hungry Caterpillar comes from a cocoon, not a chrysalis?". Eric Carle. Archived from the original on March 3, 2023. Retrieved March 3, 2023.

External links[edit]