You’re a long time a caterpillar

The very hungry caterpillar.  No matter how you might personally feel about destructive munching on various foodstuffs by garden pests (I know I voraciously protect my basil from nibbly invaders) there’s no denying that the book is a classic.

George W. Bush, in one of his best known gaffs, very famously once declared it his favourite book growing up, despite the fact that it was published in 1969, the same year he graduated from Yale.  It seems he misunderstood the question (or his uni reading list?) anyway, that’s just a very roundabout way of letting you know that the caterpillar in question has just turned forty.

Such staying power for such a little guy.  I think the continued appeal of the very hungry caterpillar is down to several things –

  • “very hungry” is a concept that most children can really get behind
  • vivid, bright illustrations that really look like what they’re supposed to represent
  • the exciting and a little bit naughty bite holes in the pages
  • the metaphor of growth and change which is so intrinsic to the process of childhood – kids hear “when you’re bigger” all the time so really enjoy seeing the caterpillar grow over the course of the book.

So well done Eric Carle.  Not every picture book has such continued popularity.  Long may he continue to munch through 1 red apple, 2 green pears, 3 purple plums…