Newest Review: ... easily ripped. The very hungry caterpillar is a fairly well know book written by Eric Carle. It's success has led to many other products... more
Member Name: sandemp
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
Advantages: Wonderful artwork, simple engaging story, educational
Disadvantages: Font a little small
This version of the book is fairly compact and made from sturdy board that is able to withstand the rather enthusiastic page turning technique young child tend to employ. The pages also have a glossy finish meaning that spills and dribbles can be easily wiped off. This may not seem important, but as any parent will tell you, a board book that cannot survive a toddler's attentions is less than useless. This is a book that will last through toddler hood, even if it is so well-loved that it is read several times a day. The smaller size also means that this book is perfect for little hands to hold, Freddy has no trouble sitting and "reading" the book on his own. It's light and small enough for him to carry around and bring to me for story time.
This is one of the few books Freddy owns that has an actual story and it begins with a little egg laying on a leaf. As the book progresses the egg hatches into a tiny and very hungry caterpillar who munches through increasing amounts various foods until he builds himself a chrysalis and turns into a beautiful butterfly. Now this is a very simplistic synopsis as there are many, many different layers to the book, meaning that it almost grows with your child.
At a very basic level it's a lovely story that has the caterpillar munching it's way through various foods that your child will recognise, with it eating an apple, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges and even cheese and cake. This gives you an opportunity to discuss these different foods with your child along with some that they may not recognise such as pickle and salami. You can talk about whether the food is good for you, whether a caterpillar would really eat them and what might happen if you eat too much. I love that this book shows that there are consequences to eating too much and that the caterpillar gets tummy ache.
The way that the caterpillar eats steadily increasing amounts of food also helps with introducing numbers and counting up to five. So you can count how many of each fruit the caterpillar eats. What I especially like about this book are the little holes through the different fruits and foods, which means that we can poke our fingers through as we count, pretending that they're the little caterpillar munching. I will say though the holes in this particular format are a little too small for adult fingers, but they are perfect for Freddy's. The days of the week are also introduced as each page tells us what happens on a different day of the week, starting with the egg hatching on Sunday through to the caterpillar building himself a house a week later.
The most obvious educational aspect of this book is, of course, the life-span of the butterfly. Freddy is probably a little too young for me to make too much of this aspect right now, but as he gets older, this book will be a lovely way of helping him understand that the beautiful butterfly we see flying started it's life as a tiny egg. (It'll even go a little way towards explaining why Mummy gets so annoyed with the caterpillars eating her cabbages). It still amazes me that such a simple book can hold so many educational themes and I'm full of admiration for the author.
Of course, it wouldn't matter how many educational themes a book contains if it doesn't catch the attention of children. Everything about this book is designed to be attractive to young children. We love the illustrations, from the fat caterpillar on the front cover to the beautiful butterfly on the last page. The illustrative style is hard to describe and very different to any other books we own. Although the pictures are bright, they almost look like close ups of oil paintings, with far more texture than the pictures in other board books. The caterpillar on the front cover almost looks as if it had been drawn by a young child and instantly grabs the eye. As for the butterfly, well it looks like a far better version of the tissue paper butterflies we've made. We also like the way that the pages with the fruit on are indented (like little steps) with each of the pages a little bigger than the next. This means that we can see which fruit is coming next and adds a little anticipation as we work our way through the book.
As well as simply reading the book we've used it as inspiration for some of our art activities. We've made our own caterpillars out of egg boxes and painted some different foods for them to eat. We've also made our own beautiful butterflies, some from tissue paper and others using paint on folded paper and are starting our own frieze of the story.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar really does seem to be Freddy's favourite book of the moment. He has a bookcase full of books, but this is the one he brings to me more often than not to be read to him. He loves the illustrations, the simple storyline and the repetition of the words "but he was still hungry" and has even started to join in with "'ungry". He also loves pretending his fingers are the caterpillar munching the different foods and the surprise of the butterfly at the end of the book. I would say that this book is suitable to be shared with a child as soon as they start enjoying books, but will be appreciated more by those over eighteen months.
But this is also a book that will be appreciated by much older children, the fact that I remember enjoying this book at school over thirty years ago says it all really. Although the language used is fairly simple there are a few words that would pose a challenge to all but the most confident of new readers. The writing in this version of the book is also quite small, which again could pose problems to the younger reader. So I would really say this is a book for sharing, but who wouldn't want to share this delightful classic with their child?
If I were being picky, I would have to deduct a star for the size of the font, but as we share this book, and because it is such a wonderful book I can't bring myself to do this. So I've giving The Very Hungry Caterpillar a resounding five stars out of five and recommending that you find a place for it on your under six year old's bookshelf. With the board version being best for those under three and the paper back for three to six year olds.
Summary: A lovely board book that deserves a place in any pre-schooler's book shelf.
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