Our book of June is The Very Hungry Caterpillar! It is a children’s picture book designed, illustrated, and written by Eric Carle, first published by the World Publishing Company in 1969, later published by Penguin Putnam. The winner of many children’s literature awards and a major graphic design award, it has sold almost 50 million copies worldwide, and has been described as having sold the equivalent of a copy per minute since its publication. The book has also been described as “one of the greatest childhood classics of all time”, and was voted the number two children’s picture book in a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar features a caterpillar who eats his way through a wide variety of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a butterfly. It uses distinctive collage illustrations (Carle’s third book, and a new style at the time), ‘eaten’ holes in the pages and simple text with educational themes – counting, the days of the week, foods, and a butterfly’s life stages. There have been a large number of related books and other products, including educational tools, created in connection to the book. The caterpillar’s diet is fictional rather than scientifically accurate, but the book introduces concepts of Lepidoptera life stages where transformations take place including the ultimate metamorphosis from ‘hungry caterpillar’ to ‘handsome butterfly’, and it has been endorsed by the Royal Entomological Society.
The book has been translated into at least 40 languages, and has been used by elementary school teachers, librarians, and parents as a teaching aid, with activities developed which use the book. It was used by former first lady Barbara Bush as part of her campaign to promote literacy. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent out special copies of the book, with associated learning tools, to health providers, to promote healthy eating in the U.S.
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