The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

when i was a teaching assistant for a children’s literature course in graduate school, the professor and i asked undergraduate students to return to a book they adored as younger readers. so i guess i’m doing my own assignment here with eric carle‘s the very hungry caterpillar (1969). at the beginning of the book, carle writes a letter about being inspired to write the book after playing with a hole-puncher!  this speaks to the fact that writers need inspiration. they need to explore, feel, taste, play, observe, watch, listen.

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the beauty of the hungry caterpillar is in the intersection of words and rich, colorful images.  readers may discuss how the story would change sans words – or sans pictures.  it is also important to consider how carle’s vision for the book comes from his perspective as both writer and illustrator. i am also interested in the presentation of the book’s didactic message. how carle playfully exposes readers to the caterpillar’s transition to a butterfly – while avoiding some of the technical, scientific jargon – is important to consider. how do effective children’s authors balance providing accurate scientific portrayals, meeting children’s reading levels, and considering readers’ enjoyment? i think there are certain children’s authors who just stand out. and when you still love a book twenty-three years after you read it for the first time, it is a testament to the power of a writer’s words and an artist’s drawings. thank you, eric carle.

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