The Iconic Children’s Book

An early and lasting influence

By Roger Childs

Children’s writer Eric Carle was born in the United States, but spent much of his childhood in Nazi Germany.

He loved drawing at school, but at the time “degenerative art” was forbidden in Germany.

Fortunately for Eric, Herr Kraus his Art teacher, showed him examples of abstract, expressionist and fauvist paintings, and he never looked back.

My green lion, polka-dotted donkey and other animals painted in the ‘wrong’ colors were really born that day seventy years ago. Eric Carle, on the influence of Art teacher, Herr Kraus

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

It is one of the greatest children’s books of all time, and has sold 30 million copies.

I’m certain that many readers will have had it read to them, and/ or turned the pages with children and grandchildren.

The caterpillar eats his way through heaps of food on his way to metamorphosing into a beautiful butterfly.

How’s this for a diet?

  • one piece of chocolate cake
  • one ice-cream cone
  • one pickle
  • one slice of Swiss cheese
  • one slice of salami
  • one lollipop
  • one piece of cherry pie
  • one sausage
  • one cupcake
  • one slice of watermelon.

But how did Eric get the idea for a hole in each page?

One day I was punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of paper, and I thought of a bookworm and so I created a story called A Week with Willi the Worm.  Author Eric Carle

But, how did the worm become a caterpillar? The editor made the suggestion: we have our uses!

Long may The Very Hungry Caterpillar sell around the World: it is a wonderful and timeless story!