By Alice Hiller
Bright colours. That is what captivated my attention as a young child when choosing a book to read. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has fond memories of leafing through Eric Carle’s books, captivated by his vivid illustrations and gripping stories. Specifically, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was one of my all-time favourite books.
The author, Eric Carle, who is American by birth, studied Art in Struttgart, Germany before returning to live in America. During his career he has received much critical acclaim, winning numerous awards. His 1969 book The Very Hungry Caterpillar was only his third story, but it soon became a house-hold name and has now been translated into over 55 languages and sold more than 41 million copies worldwide!
For me, the beauty of Carle’s work lies in his vibrant illustrations. Carle’s distinctive images, which are made up of pieces of painted paper, layered over each other to create a collage, are both unique and eye-catching. Carle’s books are possibly better thought of as works of art with a story attached, rather than as books with added illustration. Even the pages themselves have been carefully crafted to best convey an enchantingly interactive world which unknowingly invites children to grasp numbers, to learn the days of the week, and to casually discern the biological metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly!
Carle’s intention was to educate in a fun and interactive way, stating: ‘I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun’. His work certainly reflects this! He somehow makes these seemingly complex ideas appear straightforward to the young readers, who obediently follow the small hole which guides them through the book, hoping that at some point they will catch-up with the caterpillar. It is this die-cut page layout which I remember so clearly from my childhood, sitting down with friends and family to read the colourful book, carefully turning each part-page to reveal the text about the next items of food that the caterpillar has eaten its way through.
Over time, new editions of the book have been released which heighten this interactive opportunity. For example, in 2009, to mark the fortieth anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a pop-up version of the book was published. The book has also been frequently adapted for TV and film, and now, marking the book’s forty-eighth anniversary, John Rockefeller brings the classic tale to the stage in a show encompassing four of Carle’s stories.
Similarly to Carle’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show focuses on the visuals. Rockefeller encapsulates the colourful style of Carle’s illustrations through vibrant props, lighting, and a menagerie of 75 lovable puppets! Set against a white backdrop, the cast, who are also dressed in all white, work as a contrast to the vivid puppets which the cast manoeuvre, making them stand out even more, therefore capturing Carle’s distinctive style beautifully.
The sensory immersion of the show perfectly captures Carle’s ability to seamlessly weave educational aspects into his fun images, utilising large puppets and impressive lighting.
Tickets for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show are on sale now. I for one cannot wait to be transported back to my childhood memories of the vibrant world of Eric Carle. This show will be on stage at the Connaught Theatre on 21-22 April 2017.