The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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by Eric Carle. (Philomel, 1981. ISBN 9780399208539. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades PreK-1.

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Review

cover art

In this classic picture book first published in 1969, a caterpillar hatches, eats, spins a cocoon, and emerges as a butterfly. Cut-outs in the pages make this a three dimensional picture book involving the concept of counting as well as that of metamorphosis. Although the food eaten by the caterpillar is more human than insect fare, the unfolding of the butterfly adds drama to the tale for the very young.

Carle's technique of using layers of tissue paper which he sometimes paints or colors on in effect creates his own paper. This he then cuts out and pastes on a white background. His images are childlike but complex. His technique of cutting holes in the paper of varying sizes which, in later books, is combined with folded pages, besides adding depth and interest to his pages extends our concept of the picture book as being a rectangular, predictable shape.

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Activities

  • Fact and Fiction. Science: Insects. Writing. Art.:
    Which of the things the caterpillar eats would real caterpillars eat? Make a list of things a real caterpillar would eat and make another book like this one only using the things from your list.

  • Science: Insects:
    Look up some pictures of real caterpillars and the butterflies or moths they turn into. Do the prettier caterpillars turn into the prettiest butterflies or moths? Do the ugliest ones do that?

  • Math: Ordinal Numbers:
    Make a list of the things Eric Carle's caterpillar eats. How many things are there? Make that list into sentences that begin with "The first thing the caterpillar ate was . . ." "The second thing the caterpillar ate was . . ." and so on.

  • Poetry:
    Find and read David McCord's poem: "Cocoon." Find other caterpillar poems to share with the class.
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Related Books

  • cover art The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. (1990, Philomel. ISBN 9780399218859. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr K-2.
    A very small cricket tries again and again to make the cricket chirp by rubbing his wings together as other insects pass him, making their unique sounds. Each page has an insect and a verb describing his behavior. Each page also ends with "The little cricket wanted to answer so he rubbed his wings together, but nothing happened. Not a sound." See our Featured Book Teacher's Guide including Activities, Related Books and Links.
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