HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Author and Illustrator: Eric Carle
Publisher: Penguin Group USA, republished in 1981
Related website: www.eric-carle.com/home.html
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 3-6
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (published in 1969 by World Publishing Company). Eric Carle (born in 1929) is a children’s book author and illustrator who is most famous for his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has been translated into over 47 languages. Since The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published in 1969, Eric Carle has illustrated more than seventy books, many best sellers, most of which he also wrote, and more than ninety million copies of his books have sold around the whole world. Born in Syracuse, NY, to German emigrants Johanna and Erich Carle, Eric moved back to Germany with his parents in the mid-1930s when he was six years old. He was educated there, and graduated from the prestigious art school, the Akademie der bildenden Künste, in Stuttgart. Always homesick for America, Eric moved to New York City in 1952. Once there, he landed a job as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times. Educator and author Bill Martin Jr., noticed an illustration of a red lobster Carle had created for an advertisement and asked him to illustrate a story in 1967. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was the result of their collaboration and became a best-seller. This began Carle’s true career; soon he was writing and illustrating his own stories. His first wholly original book was 1,2,3 to the Zoo, followed quickly by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an all-time favorite that not only follows the very hungry caterpillar as it grows from egg to cocoon, eats its way through a wide variety of foodstuffs, finally pupates, and emerges as a beautiful butterfly, but also teaches, colors, the names of the days of the week, counting to five, good nutrition with different kinds of food, and more. Striking pictures and cleverly die-cut pages offer interactive fun. On day 1, the main character is established, and he hungry caterpillar eats through a single red apple. On day 2, the caterpillar eats through two green pears. On day 3, it eats through three purple plums. On day 4, it eats through four red strawberries. On day 5 it eats through five whole oranges. On day 6, the caterpillar devours its way through many, many different foods including chocolate cake, ice-cream, a pickle, swiss cheese, salami, a lollipop, a cherry pie, a single sausage, a cupcake , a whole slice of watermelon, and a moth that got in its way while it was eating a mushroom. But the caterpillar then gets a stomachache as a result of eating all this food. On day 7 it eats through a single leaf, which makes the caterpillar feel better. In the final chapter, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis and becomes a butterfly. The winner of many awards, such as one of The New York Times Ten Best Picture Books of the Year in 1969; an American Institute of Graphics Arts Award in 1970; the Selection du Grand Prix des Treize in France in 1972, and a Nakamori Reader’s Prize in Japan in 1975, it has sold thirty million copies and reportedly a copy of the book is sold every thirty seconds somewhere in the world.
The book is highly popular and has been praised for its use of easy-to-read words which makes it good for teaching young children to read. It contains 225 words and large, colorful illustrations. The caterpillar’s diet is a fictional fantasy, but the story does introduce the concept of the metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to butterfly. It has been described as “one of the greatest childhood classics of all time.” The Very Hungry Caterpillar was also chosen as the book for Jumpstart’s 2009 Read For the Record program on October 8. Translated into over 50 languages, it was featured on Sesame Street in the early 1990s. Also, it was adapted for television in 1993 by the Illuminated Film Company in an anthology called The World of Eric Carle that included four other Carle stories. Other books by Carle include The Tiny Seed (1970); Pancakes, Pancakes! (1970); Do You Want to Be My Friend? (1971); The Grouchy Ladybug (1977); The Very Quiet Cricket (1990); The Very Lonely Firefly (1995); Little Cloud (1996); and a whole series of “My Very First Book” of numbers, colors, shapes, words, sounds, food, tools, touch, motion, growth, homes, and heads. I remember reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Tiny Seed to our boys. They were both very good picture books for young children. We may have had other Eric Carle books, but all the ones that we once may have had are now gone since our boys grew beyond them.