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- author Jackie French

Thursday 3 September 2009

The Very Hungry Green Crayon

Our fondest childhood memories no doubt include opened boxes of Crayola crayons, scrawling little masterpieces to be displayed on the refrigerator, and reading our favorite children’s books with mum and dad. It’s only too fitting, then, that in honor of the 40th anniversary of Eric Carle’s popular children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Crayola will create a new crayon color called 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar Green' .

The new literature-inspired color will be based on one of the many tissue-stain green hues on Carle’s voracious little bug. He will be presented with an honorary five-foot crayon in the grassy hue.

Carle’s whimsical tale of a tiny caterpillar that grows fatter and fatter as it chows its way through plums, pies and pears, captured the imaginations of children and adults alike since its publication in 1969. His collage-type illustrations enhanced the playfulness of the story, and made his books instantly recognizable and distinguishable from all other children’s literature, yet the beloved tale was inspired by the most mundane of things – a hole punch.

More than four decades ago, Carle thought of a bookworm as he punched holes through a stack of paper. He wrote a short story titled A Week with Willi the Worm, but his editor suggested Carle replace the worm with a caterpillar. With that change, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was born, and has since sold more than 29 million copies worldwide and been published in 47 languages, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

The book’s 40th anniversary came with a multitude of celebration and renewed interest in the book. Google changed its banner logo in Carle’s illustration style, complete with the iconic hungry caterpillar standing atop the letters. The Stanford in Washington Art Gallery opened a new exhibit earlier this month featuring lithographs from Carle’s books, displays of his lesser known works, and a breakdown of his process of taking an idea and turning it into a published work. A special pop-up edition of the book was released, giving readers another way to enjoy the hungry critter’s appetite.

But the reason behind the continued success of The Very Hungry Caterpillar goes beyond the playful storyline and quirky illustrations. The book is about change and the wonders that change can bring even if it first brings unpleasantness - as evidenced in the caterpillar’s inevitable stomach ache after consuming all those sweets.

"I think The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a hopeful story, because it says 'you too little caterpillar can grow up, spread your wings and fly',” Carle told the Daily Telegraph. “I think it is this message of hope that resonates for many readers."

- article by Rose Jensen

This wonderful piece was written by our newest contributor, Rose Jensen, who writes about the online degree program. Rose welcomes your feedback here.