The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Front cover illustration
|Genre||Children's literature (Children's picture book)|
|Publisher||World Publishing Company (US)|
Hamish Hamilton (UK)
|June 3, 1969|
|Media type||Hardcover, Board book|
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children's picture book designed, illustrated, and written by Eric Carle, first published by the World Publishing Company in 1969, later published by Penguin Putnam. The book features a caterpillar who eats his way through a wide variety of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a butterfly. The winner of many children's literature awards and a major graphic design award, it has sold almost 50 million copies worldwide. It has been described as having sold the equivalent of a copy per minute since its publication, and as "one of the greatest childhood classics of all time." It was voted the number two children's picture book in a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar uses distinctive collage illustrations (Carle's third book, and a new style at the time), 'eaten' holes in the pages and simple text with educational themes – counting, the days of the week, foods, and a butterfly's life stages. There have been many related books and other products, including educational tools, created in connection to the book. The caterpillar’s diet is fictional rather than scientifically accurate, but the book introduces concepts of Lepidoptera life stages where transformations take place including the ultimate metamorphosis from 'hungry caterpillar' to 'handsome butterfly', and it has been endorsed by the Royal Entomological Society.
First shown on a Saturday night, by the light of the moon, an egg of some sort of insect lays on a leaf. One early Sunday morning, from the moment the egg hatches, the insect turns out to be a caterpillar. A caterpillar the larvae of a particular insect (a butterfly). The caterpillar calls himself as "the Very Hungry Caterpillar". By the name of the insect, he apparently loves to eat. Soon, he begins to look for something to eat. He eats through increasing quantities of fruit for the following 5 days (Monday through Friday). First it's 1 apple on Monday , then it is 2 pears on Tuesday, then 3 plums on Wednesday, 4 strawberries on Thursday, and 5 oranges on Friday. One by one, the days repeat the line, "But he was still hungry". On Saturday, he proceeds to eat the following: one slice of chocolate cake, an ice-cream cone, a pickle, a slice of Swiss cheese, a slice of salami, a lollipop, a slice of cherry pie, a sausage, a cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. That night he gets a stomachache from overeating.
The next morning on Sunday the caterpillar tries again and begins by eating one green leaf. By following the right food he eats the leaf and feels much better. At the end of that, he is not hungry anymore and is no longer little. He has grown in size. His "eating food" habits have permanently ended. The now-big caterpillar (since he was "a big, fat caterpillar") spins a chrysalis around himself. Once inside, he stays inside for more than two weeks. After two weeks, the caterpillar nibbles a hole in the chrysalis and pushes his way out. Finally, he develops into a butterfly with large, gorgeous, multi-colored wings. Now a butterfly, the butterfly cycle starts again. The story follows a caterpillar's actual life cycle: first eating leaves and growing into a big and fat caterpillar, then spinning a chrysalis, metamorphosing into a butterfly, and the cycle starts again.
In a sense the book was inspired by a hole punch: "One day I was punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of paper, and I thought of a bookworm and so I created a story called A Week with Willi the Worm." Carle was familiar with "differently shaped pages" from books that he read as a child in Germany.
A Week with Willi the Worm featured a bookworm named Willi. But Carle's editor Ann Beneduce advised that a green worm would not make a likable protagonist. "Then my editor suggested a caterpillar instead and I said 'Butterfly!' That's how it began," Carle recalls.
The differently shaped pages with holes representing the caterpillar's trail through foodstuffs were a challenge. No US printer could do the work economically but Beneduce found one in Japan.
Awards and accolades
The book has won numerous awards, including an American Institute of Graphic Arts Award in 1970, the Selection du Grand Prix des Treize in France in 1972, and the Nakamori Reader's Prize in Japan in 1975.
The New York Times cited it as one of the "Ten Best Picture Books of the Year" in 1969. 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. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." Five years later, School Library Journal sponsored a survey of readers which identified The Very Hungry Caterpillar as the number two children's picture book, behind only Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.
Educational and cultural influence
The book has been translated into at least 40 languages, including Dutch, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian, and Hebrew. It has been used by elementary school teachers, librarians, and parents as a teaching aid, with activities developed which use the book.
The book received renewed attention when in 1999, Pizza Hut asked 50 U.S. governors to name their favorite books from childhood. Presidential candidate George W. Bush "opted for the Caterpillar. It didn't take long for gleeful commentators to point out that when the book was published, Bush was nearly 23."
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was adapted for television on 1 September 1993 in the UK before being released on VHS video on 17 October 1994 distributed by PolyGram Video, then it re-released on 16 June 1997 distributed by Channel 5 Video and it also got re-released on 18 March 2002 distributed by Universal Pictures. a sublabel of PolyGram, as part of an anthology called The World Of Eric Carle that included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, along with four other Eric Carle stories, including: Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See A Song.
It used a classical music-influenced soundtrack by Wallace & Gromit composer Julian Nott. Narration on the UK releases of the programme, entitled The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories, was performed by Roger McGough and Juliet Stevenson, this version was briefly released in the US in the same year by Scholastic before on 5 August 1995, Disney released a US dub of the video, with narration by Brian Cummings and Linda Gary. Subsequent to that adaptation, the film and TV rights were sold for £1 million.[dubious ]
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was released on DVD on 24 April 2006, this time presented by the Illuminated Film Company and broadcast by Ventura Distribution as part of the anthology called The World Of Eric Carle that included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, along with four other Eric Carle stories: Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See a Song. It was also released on DVD in the US by Disney.
There have been numerous different editions of the book, with various additional features, as well as games incorporating copies of the book. Examples include a pop-up version and a book/card game combination from University Games. Other toys and educational resources based upon or featuring The Very Hungry Caterpillar are also plentiful.
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been translated into 40 different languages and was also used by Barbara Bush as part of her literacy campaign.
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