Recently, I have been volunteering to shelve children’s books with the
“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf,” and thus began my childhood obsession with Eric Carle and his The Very Hungry Caterpillar. From my first trip to the local public library (Locke Branch) and every other visit until I graduated to “chapter books,” it remained the coveted prize I would nudge other kids out of the way to grab.Maybe I’ve always been a fan of Carle’s colorful illustrations and the unique “hole”-some page design. Maybe there is some deep, post-modernist interpretation to be gleaned from its glossy pages. I think the most likely reason of all, however, is the thrill of the happy ending revealing that “He was a beautiful butterfly!”
No matter how many times I heard or read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I couldn’t help but become hooked. With exciting onomatopoeia and repetitive phrasing, it is hard not to anticipate what will happen next. These traits make it the perfect book to share with young readers cultivating their curiosity and passion for reading. Additionally, the story lends itself to enrichment and education. One could easily tie in lessons on diet, days of the week, colors and metamorphosis. Of course, that’s not to mention the myriad of caterpillar and butterfly art projects to take home.
I could cite the scholarly literature and reviews I perused in an effort to justify my selection. Yet, with a book as classic and timeless as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, doing so only detracts from the simple elegance of the story. Many children’s titles come and go. There may even come a time when the great Spongebob Square Pants fades from popularity. However, other titles seem to always have been and always will be; they are the core of any public library’s children’s collection. Any children’s collection worth its state budget allotment will forever contain The Very Hungry Caterpillar, earning its deserved place as the best picture book ever.