The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My first review being that of an Eric Carle work is no accident. I have been reading his books to my 2.5 year old since she was 10 months. The one that has impressed me the most is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (although my daughter might debate and settle for “Head to Toe”!).

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a picture board book. It can be read to a child as young as an year old. The author is also the illustrator. His art, although not the very common type, is interesting and colorful. The book is a simple story about the three weeks in the life of a mortal caterpillar, the three weeks between his conception from an egg to his culmination into a beautiful butterfly.

The book begins with the caterpillar’s entry into this world from a tiny egg on a Sunday morning. An apple does not seem to satisfy his hunger. He continues to eat many other fruits in increasing numbers on the following days of the week. Still hungry, the caterpillar chooses to climax his routine with a gluttonous meal, a horde of eatables. As expected, the immodest eater ends up with a stomach ache! All the food seems to have an effect, the caterpillar actually grows in size. He houses himself in a cocoon for a couple of weeks and reenters the world as an attractive butterfly.

The above story is narrated in close to just a dozen lines. The pages are loaded with brightly colored pictures of the caterpillar and his food pals. The fruits, that he eats on the weekdays, are in counting sequence on layered pages. This adds interest while the little one learns to count 1-5. The names of a multitude of yummy foods can be easily “ingested” (pun intended!) by the small brain. The days of the week are also subtly interwoven into the story. The grand finale is when your child actually picks up the life cycle of a butterfly without a science book or a garden tour, but a simple story about a hungry creature and lots of fun food!

And here is the bonus – whenever my overeaten toddler asks for more or simply junk, I cannot resist the slogan that actually makes sense to her- “you don’t want to end up with a tummy ache just like our ever hungry friend”!

The author has successfully packed in a lot things without giving the feeling of going overboard to the reader. He teaches many basic concepts while keeping the simplicity of the story in tact. Read it to your child to see the jolt when the egg pops, the smile that all the yum-yums bring, the worried look when the worm falls sick and the twinkle in the eyes on seeing the glorious butterfly!