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Why The Very Hungry Caterpillar almost never happened.

Corinne Segal

June 3, 2019, 2:18pm

Happy 50th birthday to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the absurdly popular, 224-word tale of a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly that has sold more than 50 million copies in the U.S. since its publication in 1969.

Author Eric Carle envisioned an interactive book for kids, who could follow the caterpillar munching his way through the week with circular holes cut out in the illustrations and pages of varying sizes. But that design nearly put it on the chopping block at the outset; U.S. printers said they couldn’t do the job.

According to 100 Best Books for Children, editor Ann Beneduce saved the day by locating a Japanese printer who could get it done: “Although no printer in the United States could be found to manufacture economically a book with so many die cuts, Beneduce located a printer in Japan who was able to produce the book.”

She was also the one who intervened when Carle originally suggested the protagonist be a worm. Thanks, Ann!

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