I remember my mother’s soothing voice as she read this story to me as I sat on her lap, one summer holiday, in the garden of her childhood home in York. A few sentences in: “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and—pop!—out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” This caterpillar proceeds to chomp its way through a variety of foods that fascinated me—chocolate cake, ice-cream, and cupcakes that I knew to be delicious while other foods like pears, plums, pickles, Swiss cheese, salami, and cherry pie were foreign to me at the time (coming, as I did, from Nigeria in the 1970s) yet sounded so good. Years later I would read this story to my child and to other people’s children, fingering the cutouts in the pages—my version of the Proustian madeleine.
First published by the World Publishing Company, 1969 and widely reprinted. Hear it read by the author online here