March 20th has become The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day which I think is just beautiful. This year marks the 45th anniversary of Eric Carle writing The Very Hungry Caterpillar and in that time that little caterpillar has become much loved all over the world.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published in 1969 and the story behind it is rather cool. According to Carle, “One day I was punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of paper, and I thought of a bookworm and so I created a story called A Week with Willi the Worm.” But how did we get to the caterpillar? Willi was a bookworm, but apparently Willi would not be a great protagonist as a green worm, then Carle’s editor suggested a caterpillar, which made Carle think of a butterfly and there you go. So in a sense we can all now say that very hungry caterpillar’s name is Willi.
On his 84th birthday last year I did a Birthday Book Bonanza with Carle, I also reviewed The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a very fun review to write for such a short children’s book. What I always loved about the book was not just the story, but it was the first time I remember seeing a book be more than just normal pages. This book had holes in it, and you could interact with the book itself in a new way. Of course there would be more and better interactive books as I got older, like Patrick and the Hungry Puppy, Karen and the Little Lost Kitten, and The Jolly Pocket Postman series which was brilliant, but they came later.
What was good about The Very Hungry Caterpillar was it taught you things while being fun, gorgeously colourful, and a great little story. Fun fact! Carle does his own illustrations, and those gorgeous illustrations are the result of tissue paper, paint, and a skill at collages. On his official website (link below) you can find out all about how he does it, as well as all the other Eric Carle books that get overshadowed by The Very Hungry Caterpillar, plus a whole heap more. I’ve linked in the video of Carle discussing The Very Hungry Caterpillar where he talks about the 40th anniversary and also tells you about Willi the worm’s brief moment in the sun.
So to celebrate this great little day you could read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, relive the delight, introduce it to someone new, or even try making your own tissue paper collage. It’s hard to imagine a book so seemingly simple could still be here 45 years later. But just where would we be if that little egg on the leaf, sitting in the light of the moon, had not gone POP and given us the tiny, very hungry caterpillar. I wouldn’t want to know.