23 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Facts: A Creative Picture-Book

Theekshitha Thangaval
Dec 02, 2022 By Theekshitha Thangaval
Originally Published on Apr 28, 2022
Edited by Aditi Gupta
Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath
Hungry caterpillar made of multi colorful

'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' is Eric Carle's best work and will remain so for years to come.

Having sold more than 50 million copies, the 224 words long children's literature has had a huge impact on its audience. Not to mention some fans are as old as the book itself and still can't help but feel nostalgic when they pass it by in a library.

This very educational book was written and illustrated by Eric Carle himself. The bright colors splashed across the pages are eye-catching and the engaging tone of the book keeps the readers more interested.

This children's book was first published in 1969 by the World Publishing Company and then by Penguin Putnam. This popular book has won many awards and has been talked about very highly.

Keep reading to know how this book was developed and about its cultural influences. Get to know a bit about the author and stay tuned to find out how it's related to Japan.

Development Of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

If you have seen 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' book then you know how unique it is. It's pages have holes that are the trail left behind by the caterpillar eating through fruits. Eric Carle did not actually intend for the book to be about a caterpillar in the first place, it was supposed to be something else.

Carle was inspired by the hole punch to make a book that had holes in the pages as the story progressed.

He remembered reading books with unique pages like that when he used to live in Germany as a young boy.

The animal he meant to use was a bookworm. He even went so far as to name the book. It was called 'A Week With Willi'. Can you imagine a bookworm instead of the caterpillar?

Ann Beneduce, his editor strongly disagreed with him on using a bookworm as worms were these slimy and often thought of as 'yucky' creatures. She suggested using a caterpillar which Eric Carle agreed to because he also had an idea of a butterfly.

The book was printed in Japan as it was very expensive to print in the US.

Kaisei-Sha Publishing undertook the printing because their then company president, Hiroshi Imamura loved the book.

The Japanese version was published in 1976, it has sold over 4.3 million copies which is the highest number sold of any picture book that has been translated in Japan.

Cultural Influence

The book has been translated into many languages. It's thought to exist at least in 65 languages! These include Japanese, Swedish, Hebrew and Arabic.

This book has been used across the world by many parents and teachers to make learning more fun. This is one of the many children's books that stays in its readers' minds for a very long time. And children of all ages never stop to give it a quick read when they see it.

Google took part in celebrating the book's fortieth birthday by making a Google doodle on its search engine.

Then First Lady Barbara Bush used 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' to push forward her literacy campaign.

The book also happens to be George W. Bush's favorite. An interview was conducted by Pizza Hut with the governors of the 50 states, during which time George Bush was the Governor of Texas. They asked what everyone's favorite books were and Bush quickly named this book.

The book was used to encourage healthy eating habits in the US by sending the book along with growth charts to parents by the American Academy Of Pediatrics in 2011.

The transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly is symbolic in Christianity. The book was also added to Sunday school curriculums and sermons in certain parts of the world.

Awards Won

There's no way a book this popular does not have an entire cupboard of awards stacked away somewhere. The very fact that it aids in children's learning of the weekdays, fruits, foods and numbers adds a lot of value to it. The book also teaches us how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

A survey by School Library Journal in 2012 picked this children's literature book as the number two Picture Book for Kids.

It won the American Institute Of Graphic Arts Award in 1970.

In 1972, Eric Carle received the French award Selection Du Grand Prix Des Treize for 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar.'

The author also received Japan's Nakamori Reader's Prize in 1975 for the book.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has also made it to many top lists as in 1969 it was among the Ten Best Picture Books of the Year.

It was at number 10 of Tope Check Outs of All Time at the New York Public Library.

CIRCA 2006: a postage stamp printed in USA showing an image of the Very Hungry Caterpillar

About Author

Eric Carle was born in Syracuse, New York on June 25, 1929. But his family was moved out and back to his father's native city in Germany.

Carle's childhood was not something the author spoke about with happiness. He has even said that maybe his books are a way of making the child he was when in Germany a happy one. Carle made it through many difficulties but despite it all, he had a good career in illustrations and as an author.

The time Eric Carle and Eric Carle's family moved back to Germany was just before World War II. His art teacher risked his own life to get copies of great artworks by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Picasso to show to his student.

Eric Carle was made aware of the existence of a bigger world that has more to offer than soldiers and war.

Eric Carle made his way back to New York with only $40 dollars in hand in 1952 and got a job as a graphic designer, after which he was sent back to Germany as a mail clerk during the Korean War for the US Army.

Eric Carle collaborated with Bill Martin Jr., an author of children's books, to illustrate for 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?' which is the starting of his illustrating and writing career. He went on to write books like '10 Little Rubber Ducks' and 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'.

Eric Carle and his wife Barbara Morrison opened The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art beside Hampshire College.

He had a son and daughter. Eric Carle passed away on May 23, 2021 at the age of 91, just a month before his 92 birthday.



What is the point of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'?

The book teaches us a lot about the life of a caterpillar and about eating healthy and knowing when to stop and shows us that, like the way the caterpillar's life changes, so does ours.

What is unique about 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'?

The pages of the books have holes in them which are made by the hungry caterpillar eating through all the fruits and snacks. It also teaches children numbers, fruits and snack names, and the days of the week.

What is 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' story about?

The story is about a caterpillar eating everything it can and keeps growing until one day it overeats and feels unwell. After this, it eats a few bites of a leaf and feels much better. The caterpillar then builds a cocoon and becomes a butterfly.

How many legs does 'The Hungry Caterpillar' have?

'The Hungry Caterpillar' has six legs.

What kind of butterfly does 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' turn into?

The caterpillar in the story becomes a big beautiful and colorful butterfly. But in reality, there is a lot of debate as to what species it really is.

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Written by Theekshitha Thangaval

Bachelor of Science specializing in Zoology

Theekshitha Thangaval picture

Theekshitha ThangavalBachelor of Science specializing in Zoology

With diverse interests that include travel, sports, cooking, gardening, wildlife conservation, and more, Theekshitha is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Indra Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and is a former teacher at Sholai School (CLOAAT). After gaining experience as a teacher, she transitioned to content writing. She is an enthusiastic learner and team player who consistently strives to upskill herself.

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Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology, Masters of Science specializing in Biotechnology

Pratiti Nath picture

Pratiti NathBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology, Masters of Science specializing in Biotechnology

A Master's in Biotechnology from Presidency University and a Bachelor's in Microbiology from Calcutta University. Pratiti holds expertise in writing science and healthcare articles, and their inputs and feedback help writers create insightful content. They have interests in heritage, history, and climate change issues and have written articles for various websites across multiple subjects. Their experience also includes working with eco-friendly startups and climate-related NGOs.

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