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The Very Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle dies aged 91

The children’s book, published in 1969, sold around 40 million copies.

Image: Richard Drew

ERIC CARLE, AUTHOR of well-known children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has died aged 91, his family said.

In an announcement issued by Penguin Young Leaders, the family said the beloved children’s author and illustrator died on Sunday at his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, was welcomed by parents and delighted kids with its story of the metamorphosis of a green and red caterpillar with a touch of blue and brown to a proudly multi-coloured butterfly.

Originally conceived as a book about a bookworm — called A Week with Willi the Worm — the hero, who eats through 26 different foods, was changed to a caterpillar on the advice of his editor.

It has sold some 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, spawned stuffed animal caterpillars and has been turned into a stage play.

Mr Carle told The New York Times in 1994: “I remember that as a child, I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent.

“Caterpillar is a book of hope: you, too, can grow up and grow wings.”

Mr Carle wrote and-or illustrated more than 75 books, sometimes partnering with other authors, but most with him working alone.

One of his last books was 2015′s The Nonsense Show, which centred on a parade of flying fish, cat-taming mice and circus animals.

The theme of kids mastering the world was tackled in other tales of critters with “very” big predicaments: The Very Busy Spider, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Very Lonely Firefly and Friends.

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The love of family was explored in such books as Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me and Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?

In 2002, Mr Carle and his late wife, Barbara Carle, founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, the nonprofit arts centre is a showcase for picture book illustrations from around the world.

Mr Carle received lifetime achievement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Library Association. He is survived by a son and a daughter.

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