Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Picture Book From the Past: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle

Written in 1969, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic picture book from many of our childhoods. With colorful illustrations that are sure to engage young children of all ages, Carle describes a story about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar who eats his way through the days of the week and transforms into a beautiful butterfly. On Monday, he ate one apple, on Tuesday he ate two pears, on Wednesday he ate three plumbs, and each of the days following he ate one more piece of fruit than the day before. No matter how much fruit he ate, the very hungry caterpillar was still hungry…until Saturday.

“On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. That night he had a stomachache!”

The caterpillar was finally ready for his transformation. After making himself a cocoon and staying there for two weeks, the very hungry caterpillar emerged, no longer hungry and no longer a caterpillar. He was now…

a beautiful butterfly.

This seemingly simple picture book is a phenomenal educational story, incorporating the days of the week, numbers, and the stages of a butterfly’s life. This book provides a great foundation for the lessons that all children will learn throughout their early education. We both have vivid memories of the caterpillar unit in elementary school in which we learned about the same cycle of transformation that Carle describes in this book. Having read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, we already had a basic understanding of the life of a caterpillar.

Click here to listen to and view The Very Hungry Caterpillar

-Olivia Steinberg and Alex Rogers


  1. I'm glad you two have positive memories about this book because I have them with pretty much all Eric Carle books! I have seen this book used in classrooms learning about life cycles and insects, but had never thought to use it for days of the week or numbers. Great idea! The books seems simple, as you pointed out, but is rich with learning opportunities. It is handy for a teacher to have books like this that can be used in a wide range of lessons, especially when they are books that kids love to hear over and over. When I taught preschool, we had a big book version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and a felt board with pieces for all the food. Students loved working on counting and putting the objects in order to follow the story.

    You mentioned the illustrations, but I could rant and rave about Ethem all day. The basic design is simple, with bold colors and shapes, but the rich texture and color he puts in the pieces before he assembles the collages brings the illustrations to life. Children who are preliterate or have a very low reading level can still enjoy this book because they pictures can stand alone; you can look through the book without looking at the words and understand the story. Here is a cool video I found of Eric Carle talking about the book.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. I love the enthusiam you put in this post. Although I am familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you make me want to give it another look. I also appreciate the design of this post, the colors pop off the screen and are a reflection of the joyful spirit of The Very Hungry Caterpillar