The Very Hungry Caterpillar is for Everyone

Jessica Walker

Caterpillar

Still from Kinder Playhouse’s YouTube video of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is no exception to the effects of remediation. Once the original book gained popularity, it became vulnerable to other publishers. The change from a cardboard paged children’s book, to an untouchable visual representation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in video format, is not without consequence. The nostalgic thick paged book was charming because of its colourful pictures represent a caterpillar and its meals. The sheer simplicity of the artwork matched the simple words narrating the caterpillar’s journey. The narrated video of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which can be found on Netflix, has abandoned the nostalgia found from turning a thick page to reveal the caterpillar’s next stage in its short life. The caterpillar’s transformation story becomes a slightly spastic collage of colour swatches uncomfortably paired with a irritatingly soft woman’s voice in the video medium.

[Kinder Playhouse. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar — Animated Film.” YouTube, 25 Aug. 2016.]

The cause of unease sensed in the video could be a sign that something is lacking. The first version of “The Work of Art…” states that “In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is lacking; the here and now of the work of art—  its unique existence in a particular place.” (Benjamin and Jennings) The fact that the movie of The Very Hungry Caterpillar can not exist in hand in the same place that the book was placed in hand as a child is how the filmed remediation loses the nostalgic value.

Not all remediated works are inferior to the original. The Spanish translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is much more successful than the video. The ability for Spanish readers to enjoy the classic children’s story that many English speakers were able to enjoy in their childhood. On a personal level, I bought this Spanish remediated version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for my nephew so that he could experience a bilingual childhood.

Image: Amazon.com, “La oruga muy hambrienta: Board Book (Spanish Edition).”

During my critique of the Spanish translated version I found that for the majority of the book, the translation did not change the meaning of the words in the story other than the meaning of some food items slightly changed. For example, the chocolate cake in English is translated to a chocolate pastry in Spanish. The meaning of the caterpillar eating various food items is still intact. The use of repetition that makes The Very Hungry Caterpillar endearing also remains in the Spanish remediation. Sometimes parts of the reading experience can be lost in remediated formats but for the most part the accessibility far outweighs the pieces of the experience that are lost. Usually the experience of one medium or format depends on the preference of the consumer. Personally I prefer the thick-paged children’s book that I grew up with in any language that I can read.

Eric Carle, the author of the original. Image: Best Books for Kids.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Walter, and Michael W. Jennings. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility [First Version].” Grey Room 39 (2010) : 19-42.

Kinder Playhouse. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar- Animated Film.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Aug. 2016. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.

Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar = La Oruga Muy Hambrienta. New York: Philomel, 2011. Print.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar. A Must-Have Book For Babies & Young Children.” Www.best-books-for-kids.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.

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