June 3, 1969: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

One Sunday morning, a red-faced caterpillar hatches from an egg, and begins to look for some food. He eats through increasing quantities of fruit on the following five days, one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, four strawberries on Thursday, and five oranges on Friday, and then, on Saturday, he has an enormous feast. By the end of Saturday, the inevitable happens and he is ill. After recovering from a stomach-ache, he returns to a more sensible diet by eating through a large green leaf before spinning a cocoon in which he remains for the following 2 weeks. Later, the “big fat caterpillar” emerges as a beautiful butterfly with large, gorgeous, multi-coloured wings.

06-03-1969-Very_Hungry_CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children’s picture book designed, illustrated and written by Eric Carle, first published by the World Publishing Company this day in 1969, later published by Penguin Putnam. It features a caterpillar who eats its 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 30 million copies worldwide. It has been described as having sold the equivalent of a copy per minute since its publication. It has been described 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 a large number of 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 ‘beautiful butterfly’, and it has been endorsed by the Royal Entomological Society. [Wikipedia]

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