The Very Hungry Caterpillar – 50th Anniversary

Fifty years.  That’s a very long time.  For a book to still be alive, vibrant, and read all over the world – fifty years later – is astounding.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, with a golden book jacket.

The caterpillar in the story wasn’t always a caterpillar.  Initially it was a worm, and the book was titled A Week With Willi the Worm.  

The editor wasn’t crazy about a worm.  When she suggested a caterpillar, Carle immediately said butterfly, and the story was born.  The favorite part of the book for children, also a nightmare for the publisher, is the five pages of fruit for each weekday – with a hole through the fruit.  Carle’s inspiration came from using a holepunch at work.

“On Monday he ate through one apple.  But he was still hungry.”
(The page with one apple is narrow- only 2 inches.)

“On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.”
(The page with two pears is 4 inches.)

And so on, through Friday.  Children love chanting the repeating phrase,
“…but he was still hungry”.

Today the book has been translated in sixty-two languages and has sold more than forty-six million copies.  More than one copy of the book is sold every minute.  Those statistics are mind boggling.  Why is the book so successful?  The illustrations are beautiful, especially the butterfly.  The text is predictable, yet exciting.  The story is really about life – being born, learning along the way with mistakes, right and wrong, and also the wonder of what happens when we emerge into the person we want to be.  Isn’t that what children want to hear about?  Aren’t those the important things?  That’s what we need to read to children.

Eric Carle says the story is one of hope.  “Like the caterpillar, children will grow up and spread their wings.”

The youngest of children enjoy the story, and so do older children.  If you haven’t read the book in a while, I highly recommend it.

Happy 50th Anniversary to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, Eric Carle, history, picture books, preschool, reading aloud, reading aloud, The Arts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The Very Hungry Caterpillar – 50th Anniversary

  1. Ritu says:

    I just love this book and all the learning we Can squeeze from its few pages!!!

  2. Darlene says:

    An amazing book, one every child should read.

  3. Sue Vincent says:

    I don’t know a child who hasn’t loved this.

  4. Nemorino says:

    I enjoyed reading this book to my children and grandchildren (in English, but they also had it in German).

  5. Opher says:

    My kids used to love that book!

  6. This book is one of my favourites, Jennie, together with The Gruffalo. Thank you for the reminder.

  7. beetleypete says:

    This is one I have actually read to our grandson. A timeless classic indeed, Jennie. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  8. That’s a beautiful new book jacket and those sales statistics are amazing. I’m so thankful for the changes, A Week With Willie the Worm just doesn’t have as far reaching possibilities. 🙂

  9. How fabulous! Thanks for sharing this delight, Jennie. I remember hearing this title at some point. But I’m only familiar with a couple of children’s books. I love the part about the hole-punch. This is a marvelous post. Hugs on the wing.

  10. I’ve bought so many copies of that book as baby gifts and still want to pick it up when I go to the bookstore. It brings out the child in me as well.

  11. Pingback: The Very Hungry Caterpillar – 50th Anniversary — A Teacher’s Reflections – Raising Readers…

  12. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is a lovely post from Jennie about a wonderful children’s book.

  13. I love how animated you are reading the wonderous book! Perhaps one day, we can hear you read? I’m glad Willi the worm became a caterpillar and then a butterfly. I hadn’t known that, so thanks, Jennie. xo

  14. Norah says:

    Happy birthday Caterpillar!

  15. I miss the days when a writer like Carle could come from the rank and file to dazzle us with a charming story instead of having countless celebrities taking all of the new title slots for children’s books….I wonder how much more we are missing….

    • Jennie says:

      We are missing quite a lot! When publishers look at selling books above a good story it is sad. I know, publishing is a business, but celebrity stories??

  16. Dan Antion says:

    Some stories never loose their impact.

  17. I love that book, Jennie, and have read it to my daughter and then my grandson. How fun is that? 50 years and still growing strong. 🙂

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