This is one of my all-time favorite children's books. One sunny day, a caterpillar pops out of an egg. He is very hungry and begins searching for food. Now, many of Eric Carle's books have gimmicks--the tactile web in THE VERY BUSY SPIDER and the chirping in THE VERY QUIET CRICKET, for example. The gimmick in this book is that the caterpillar eats holes through all the food, holes that are actually punched into the pages of the book. It's a good gimmick, actually. Also, many of Carle's books teach conventions--telling time in THE VERY GROUCHY LADYBUG and animal sounds in THE VERY BUSY SPIDER, for example. This one teaches the days of the week. On Monday, the caterpillar eats this, on Tuesday he eats that, and so forth. Very cute. Eventually, he becomes a fat caterpillar. He then spins himself a cocoon, where he rests for two weeks. And when he emerges...well, you can guess the results. It's a wonderful story. Best of all, the text is very simple as are the illustrations, so the book will appeal to toddlers as well as the pre-K and kindergarten crowd. In fact, it may appeal more to toddlers, because the story is so very simple. I know I read it as a kindergartener. I loved the holes but found the story rather boring. I read it to my two-year-old this spring, however, and he went nuts over it. The days of the week were lost on him, but he was fascinated by the caterpillar turning into a butterfly--he had no idea! Can't tell you how many times we read it. We also re-enacted it, crawling on the floor and eating, spinning ourselves into cocoons, and popping out with fluttery wings. In fact, he was so taken with the caterpillar-to-butterfly phenomenon that I ordered some caterpillars (I used "Insect Lore"--they are on-line--but I'm sure there are lots of other places to get them). We read THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR at each stage of their development and then right before we released them as butterflies. It was the highlight of our spring.
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