Today marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle’s timeless children’s book about a caterpillar’s daily culinary journey through foods both nutritious and snacky. While subtly being taught the days of the week, counting, and metamorphosis may not be foremost among the memories readers take away from the story, Carle’s signature (now iconic) style of illustration ensures that the butterfly-in-waiting that is the story’s center figure is as recognizable among children of any age as any talking bear, frog, or sponge.
Such a famous story will certainly have its own animated version out on DVD – whether or not the animated telling remains faithful to the book. Thankfully, Scholastic’s animated version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a faithful and appropriate adaptation of the story. Using Carle’s original illustrations, the animation is limited and evenly paced, never jarring the senses. The story is narrated word for word, nothing added and nothing taken away. The male narrator’s voice is soothing but not sleep-inducing, and while it’s no substitute for the voice of a loved one reading the story aloud, it has its charm. (Subtitles are available for those who want to read along as the story unfolds.) The film is as short as the book – it’s over in less than 10 minutes – but for those who want more, adaptations of Carle’s Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See a Song are included on the same disc.
Carle’s print version of the story, in its many forms (most fun – an oversized board book with a toy caterpillar that can be moved in and out of the holes of the eaten fruits), is the finest way to enjoy the tale. Still, it’s nice to have an animated version of this classic available, as a calm alternative to the more boisterous cartoon fare which may not suit all ages or moods. In any form, Carle’s vivid colors are sure to amaze those who encounter them as much forty years on, as in forty years past.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories