15 facts about The Very Hungry Caterpillar you probably didn't know
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
One of the greatest children's books of all time is now 50 years old. Having sold over 50 million copies worldwide since its release in 1969 — the equivalent to one copy sold per minute — The Very Hungry Caterpillar continues to eat into the hearts of many young and nostalgic readers. Written and illustrated by award-winning author Eric Carle, the classic book has now been adapted into a wildly entertaining stage play. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show was created by Jonathan Rockefeller and also adapts Carle's other famed works, including Brown Bear, The Very Lonely Butterfly, and 10 Little Rubber Ducks. With all your favourite characters brought to life thanks to a whole zoo of fantastic puppets (75 in total), The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is guaranteed to captivate both you and your children from start to finish! In celebration of the show's upcoming premiere at the new Troubadour White City Theatre in West London this August, and in honour of the book's 50th birthday, we've put together a fabulous list for the top 15 facts about The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Do you know any of them?
Top 15 facts you might not know about The Very Hungry Caterpillar
1. The book was adapted into an educational video game for kids. While the book's purpose was to teach children how to count, the video game adapted in 2010 by CYBIRD Co., Ltd. focused on the building blocks of language. In the game, players are taught the English alphabet, words, and animals, all of which were drawn by Eric Carle. An expansion pack was also made available with more words and sea/forest animals. If your children can't read this article, then perhaps Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC is just the learning tool they need.
2. In 2009, Google celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with an Eric Carlesque doodle on their homepage.
3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been translated into over 60 languages, though many are now out of print. Foreign language editions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar include Afrikaans, Arabic, Aramaic, Basque, Belarusian, Bengali, Braille, Breton, Bulgarian, Castilian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Frisian, Gaelic, Galician, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Luxembourgish, Maori, Mongolian, Norwegian, Occitan, Punjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Tetun, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Yiddish.
4. The bright and vibrant colours splashed across the pages of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a stark contrast to Eric Carle's troublesome childhood. Carle was born in Syracuse, New York on June 25th, 1929. When he turned six years old, his father repatriated to Stuttgart Germany and took the family with him. 1935 was not exactly the best time to move back to Germany, or Europe for that matter. The Second World War soon broke out and formed a dark, nasty backdrop to Carle's upbringing. His father was almost immediately drafted into the German Armed Forces and subsequently captured and detained by the Soviet Union for 8 whole years. When Carle was 18, his father came back a broken war veteran with severe PTSD, certainly not the bubbly and happy man Carle once knew. Carle admitted to being attracted to vibrant hues from painted tissue paper as a rejection of his bleak childhood.
5. Carle's high school art teacher, Herr Kraus, risked his life to expose Carle to colourful paintings from the Expressionist art movement. Many paintings, including those of Picasso, Matisse, and the Die Brucke group, were considered to be degenerate art by the Nazis and banned. At the time Carle was growing up, Socialist Realism depicting patriotism, flag-waving Aryan farmers, etc. was one of the only acceptable painting styles. The many reproductions he saw of Expressionist works opened his eyes to a vibrant style that would later define his artistry.
6. The book has been interpreted by some to contain religious undertones. As the caterpillar pupates and undergoes metamorphosis before emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly, many believers have equated it to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and, thus, the book remains popular in Sunday School for children.
7. An East German librarian once told Carle that she believed the book was too capitalist and would have never been published in Germany. She noted that the caterpillar took just one bite out of everything without finishing the food. The caterpillar would just get bigger and bigger, exploiting everything in its path.
8. The book was used to promote healthy eating habits amongst children. In 2011, the American Academy of Paediatrics partnered with former President Bill Clinton's charity to provide over 17,000 copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to paediatricians across the US, along with dietary pamphlets and growth charts to hand out to parents.
9. Speaking of former US presidents, George W. Bush was also a huge fan of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and it was the only book he would read to children when visiting public schools as president. Bush also declared the book to be his favourite from his childhood, but it was published when he was 23 years old and the press made a public mockery of his immature taste in literature.
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar character was almost a bookworm. Carle moved back to the US to become a graphic designer and then moved back to Germany to avoid the draft for the US Army. He returned to the US again to take a job at an advertisement agency and got inspiration for the caterpillar from hole punching. He would arbitrarily punch holes into stacks of paper as if a bookworm had made its way through the sheets of paper. His editor, Ann Beneduce, was worried a bookworm character wouldn't sell and that's when they together came up with a caterpillar character instead.
11. The book's design was very difficult to mass-produce. Carle was sold on the idea of having holes in the book to represent the various foods the caterpillar munches on. But many books in the US would refuse to publish such a book with so many cuts at an affordable price. Eventually, they managed to find a Japanese publishing house that would be willing to take on the project and manufacture the book at reasonable production costs.
12. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was adapted into a cartoon in 1993 by The Illuminated Film Company. Eric Carle has called the show dreadful and shameful.
13. Eric Carle once explained why he thinks the book became so popular: the caterpillar represents an unsightly and minuscule creature that can reinvent itself and become a talented and beautiful being. Carle said, "As a child, you can feel small and helpless and wonder if you'll ever grow up." The Very Hungry Caterpillar represents the path to physical and mental maturity.
14. Carle also believes that it's the book's minimalism that makes it so appealing. The Very Hungry Caterpillar lacks conventional rhyme schemes and poetics, and the book follows mostly the same pattern throughout. It's clean, crisp, and easy enough for George W. Bush to read.
15. The book still hasn't lost its magic, even after five decades. It remains Puffin Books' most monetarily successful book of all time and its popularity has been dubbed The Beatles of children's books.
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