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.
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.