Memorable Bedtime Books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Since its first publication in 1969, 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle has been a treasured picture book that both delights and educates its readers. The book has been widely recognized and commended by sources as diverse as the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Royal Entomological Society.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar

About the Story

The Very Hungry Caterpillar begins with an egg on a leaf. On a Sunday, the egg hatches to reveal a small and hungry caterpillar, who immediately begins searching for food. The caterpillar finds an apple on Monday, eating his way through it but finding that he's still hungry. Focusing on one fruit each day over the next three days, he eats two pears, three plums and four strawberries. On Friday, the caterpillar graduates to eating five oranges.

Over the course the of the week, the caterpillar grows in size, but he's still hungry. On Saturday, he eats a smorgasbord of food, including cake, salami, pie and ice cream. All of the unhealthy food gives him a stomachache. To make himself feel better, he eats a green leaf on Sunday.

By this point, he's a big, fat caterpillar. He builds a cocoon around himself and stays inside for over two weeks. When he emerges, he has transformed into a beautiful butterfly.

Many Teaching Moments

Though it's a very brief picture book with sparse and simple language, The Very Hungry Caterpillar conveys an impressive array of wisdom and lessons for children. Most prominent among these is the life cycle of a caterpillar. The caterpillar in the story begins his life as an egg, then progresses through the larva stage. The time in his cocoon is his chrysalis stage, followed by his adult appearance as a butterfly.

This is a factually accurate portrayal of how lepidopterans, an order of insects including butterflies and moths, grow and change. It teaches your child to understand this biological process. When you encounter a caterpillar, you can refer to The Very Hungry Caterpillar and ask your child about what it's doing, since it's likely to be looking for food. Likewise, you can reference the book when you see a butterfly, noting how it's a caterpillar that has emerged from its cocoon after its transformation.

Though less obvious, The Very Hungry Caterpillar also includes lessons about the days of the week and simple counting. The caterpillar first comes out of his egg on a Sunday, then the pages follow each day of the week, naming them as they go along, until the following Sunday. Additionally, the foods the caterpillar eats between Monday and Friday go from one apple to five oranges. Each of the pieces of fruit is pictured, which enables you to count them along with your child.

Finally, the story portrays the caterpillar moving through foods in a way that teaches a lesson about healthy eating. The bulk of the caterpillar's diet is fruit. This helps him grow. On Saturday, when he eats a plethora of junk food, he gets a stomachache that can only be cured by eating a nutritious green leaf. Not only will The Very Hungry Caterpillar impress upon your child the way caterpillars become butterflies, the days of the week and basic counting, it also teaches good eating habits that help a caterpillar, or a person, grow and develop.

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