The Rest of the Story

I loved those The Rest of the Story segments that aired on the radio for a number of years. Well, here’s a story that works well in that format. It’s about a man named Eric who was born in New York to German parents. His mother was so homesick for her homeland, however, that when Eric was only six, the family moved back to Germany. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great. World War II soon began, and Eric’s father ended up in a prison camp. Eric’s life was difficult as well. He was forced to dig trenches for the Nazis and suffered the torments of war.

Now here’s the rest of the story. The one bright part of Eric’s life in Germany was his love of art. One of his teachers recognized his talent and mentored him. Somehow Eric was able to attend and eventually graduate from a prestigious German art academy. But remembering his happy childhood, Eric always longed to come back to America, and in 1952 he returned to New York with $40 dollars to his name. Fortunately, he also brought an impressive portfolio. He applied at The New York Times and was hired as an artist. A publisher happened to be looking for an illustrator for a book called Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See and liked Eric’s work. Eric ended up doing the art work for this book, then wrote and illustrated his own book called 1,2,3 To the Zoo. He’d found his niche.

Always on the look out for ideas, one day Eric noticed some holes that had been punched into some papers on his desk. He thought they looked like something a bookworm would make. The bookworm character evolved into a caterpillar who ate through different foods. This book about a caterpillar taught children not only about good nutrition, but the days of the week, counting, and the metamorphosis, but most important, that learning can be fun! The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has become one of the most popular children’s books of all time; has sold 33 million copies; and has been translated into fifty languages. Eric Carle went on to illustrate or write and illustrate seventy more books. 103 million copies of his books have been sold around the world. But his second book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, remains, in my estimation, his best work—the ideal children’s book. And that’s the rest of the story.

Note: If you’d like a copy of “The Hungry Caterpillar” or the caterpillar or butterfly puppet that goes with the book, please contact anyaspuppettree@gmail.com.  

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