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AmericaEric Carle, author of picture book classic ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, dies...

Eric Carle, author of picture book classic ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, dies at 91

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New York: Eric Carle, the beloved children’s author and illustrator whose classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other works gave millions of children some of their earliest and most cherished literary memories, has died at age 91.

Carle’s family says he died on Sunday at his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, with family members at his side. The family’s announcement was issued by Penguin Young Leaders.

Through books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Do You Want to Be My Friend? and From Head to Toe, Carle introduced universal themes in simple words and bright colours.

Author Eric Carle, pictured in 2008, originally wrote about a hungry worm, but changed it to a caterpillar on his editor’s advice.
Author Eric Carle, pictured in 2008, originally wrote about a hungry worm, but changed it to a caterpillar on his editor’s advice. Credit:AP

“The unknown often brings fear with it,” he once observed. “In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, was welcomed by parents and delighted kids with its story of the metamorphosis of a green-and-red caterpillar to a proudly multi-coloured butterfly.

Originally conceived as a book about a bookworm — called A Week with Willi the Worm — the hero, who eats through 26 different foods, was changed to a caterpillar on the advice of his editor. It has sold more than 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, developed into a suite of toys and merchandise and turned into a stage play.

“I remember that as a child, I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent,” Carle told The New York Times in 1994. “Caterpillar is a book of hope: you, too, can grow up and grow wings.”

George Bush read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to children on the campaign trail in 1999.
George Bush read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to children on the campaign trail in 1999. Credit:Getty

Politicians such as George W Bush and Hillary Clinton were known to read the book to children on the campaign trail. The American Academy of Paediatrics sent more than 17,000 paediatricians special copies of the book, along with growth charts and parent handouts on healthy eating. Fellow writer and illustrator Ted Dewan called the book one of the pillars of children’s culture. “It’s almost talking about how great the Beatles were. It’s beyond reproach,” he said.

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