Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Peek-a-boo!

I most often pass on recommendations of books I find exceptional. This time around, though, I am going to be passing on two recommendations from someone else: my one-year-old daughter. These two board books are among her very favorite, and not because of the text.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
Philomel Books, 1969, 22 pages

This book is over 40 years old now, and still as popular as ever. The plot is summed up by the book's title - it is about a very hungry caterpillar who eats and eats and eats for a week, and then builds a cocoon and turns into a beautiful butterfly. There are two different aspects of this book that make it one of my daughter's favorites:

1) The inside pages are very easy for little hands to turn because they vary in width from the rest of the pages. On Monday the caterpillar eats through one apple, and the page with the apple is only a fifth as wide as the rest of the book; on Tuesday he eats through two pears, and that page is two fifths as wide as the rest, and so it continues with three plums (three fifths as wide) four strawberries, and finally five oranges, in which the page is back to the normal full width.

2) The page covering what the caterpillar eats on Saturday is a two page spread of colorful cake, ice cream, cheese sausage pie watermelon and more, and it looks good enough to eat. Our little one likes to turn to this page first, and will flip back to it again and again and again.

by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Viking Juvenile, 1997, 32 pages

The setting of this book is England, and it appears to be right around World War II (judging from the Daddy's uniform). The "plot" is very simple - the story starts with a baby in his crib, waking up in the morning and looking around to see what he can see. We follow him through the day, always seeing through his eyes at what he can see, until his day ends and he heads to bed. It is the construction of this book that fascinates my daughter - on the first two page spread the baby is in her crib on the left hand side, and the right page is all white, but with a large round hole cut through it so that we (and the baby) can "peek" to see what is on the next page. And once she is done peeking, she turns the page, and then spends her time looking at all the activity going on in the fully-revealed page. The illustrator, Janet Ahlberg, fills her pictures with layers of detail - there is so much there I don't even mind paging through it again and again.... and again and again and again! So we get to play a game of peek-a-boo five times as we read through the book, peering through these holes to see what comes next.

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