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Monday, 27 February 2017

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Author and Illustrator: Eric Carle
Publisher: The World Publishing Company , USA, 1969, published by Puffin Books in this edition, 2002

I didn't like this book as a child; I have a memory of telling my playground leader this. She said she couldn't understand why I wouldn't like the book, I remember thinking 'because it goes on and on and I know what happens' but I couldn't articulate 'repetitive, very very repetitive' at the time. Do I like this book as an adult? Only if it's read in a certain way (which includes adding hyperbolic caterpillar gobbling noises on every page, to make it somewhat funnier). 

This book was being very heavily merchandised seven years ago when my first son was born. The characteristic primary colour dots used by Eric Carle on both outro and intro pages of The Very Hungry Caterpillar  where on curtains, bedding, clocks, money boxes, pyjamas. The dots were everywhere! I can see the appeal to babies, bright block colours, simple shapes, and I can see the appeal to parents, iconic gauche paper collage illustrations. The story itself is also very simplistic and teaches the egg-caterpillar- butterfly cycle, a mainstay of the early years curriculum ( what came first, Eric Carle's iconic preschooler book or catterpillars on the curriculum?!). Days of the week and counting are also part of this books 'teaching' , so in terms of educational value to toddlers this books must be very high. 

I prefer this book in the thick robust cardboard board book edition, as all that invitation to poke little fingers through the circular cut- outs of the fruit pictorials can get quite frantic, especially when a competing sibling is nearby / involved. The cocoon page is a bit ambiguous and has been likened by many 'helpful' older siblings to the mainstay of toilet humour. The double page spread of the butterfly to end the book is however, a really magical ending, and we like to flutter the book away ( opening and closing it rapidly) which toddlers seem to love. 

In all, it has its flaws, but The very hungry caterpillar enjoys too much popularity in contemporary culture to ever escape the colour, appeal, and enjoyment it brings. 

If you like this, you may also like this counting book: One Lonely Fish

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