The story follows a ravenous caterpillar as he consumes a broad array of foods before pupating and emerging as a butterfly. It has sold about 50 million copies worldwide and has won numerous children’s literature prizes as well as a significant graphic design award. Since its debut, it has been recognized as “one of the greatest childhood classics of all time,” selling the equivalent of one copy every minute. In a 2012 poll of School Library Journal readers, it was chosen the second best children’s picture book.
Carle’s third book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, features unique collage drawings that were groundbreaking at the time of release, as well as ‘eaten’ holes in the pages and simple text with educational themes like as counting, days of the week, foods, and the stages of a butterfly’s life. It encourages children to count and to make one-to-one correspondences between numbers and the foods eaten by the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Many related books and other products, including teaching tools, have been produced in conjunction with the book. Although the diet of the Very Hungry Caterpillar is fictional rather than scientifically accurate, the book introduces concepts of Lepidoptera life stages and transformations, including the ultimate metamorphosis from “hungry caterpillar” to “beautiful butterfly,” and it has been endorsed by the Royal Entomological Society.