Part of Slate’s application was to write a critique of Daniel Smith’s Why I Hate Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I decided to have some fun with it. Not sure if this will help me get the job, but it should make me stand out, right?
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is iconic.
But Daniel B. Smith thinks it’s moronic.
The pictures are nice, but the text is bland,
How it has sold 29 million copies, Smith doesn’t understand.
The text is hackneyed and the plot is formulaic,
Smith considers this book to be boring and prosaic.
Eric Carle is the man who’s caused all this pain,
His inane prose has nearly driven Smith insane.
You see, all of Carle’s books are written the same,
You have insects eating things or bears playing a game.
With different species of bears, he has Mother Nature to thank,
Carle can write a new series and laugh all the way to the bank.
Smith says children’s books are supposed to teach,
And it’s not just children that they’re supposed to reach.
Children’s books are for parents, too,
After hundreds of readings, he’s ready to sue.
For emotional distress and the tort of assault,
‘Cause after reading this drivel, the author’s at fault.
Smith craves metaphors and symbols that Carle’s books lack,
Especially when compared to the works of one, Maurice Sendak.
His books have political symbolism and historical context,
And keep children and parents enthralled from one page to the next.
Of course, if it’s complicated subtext he wants and not banal gobbledygook,
It’s surprising he doesn’t consider “The Butter Battle Book.”
Dr. Seuss’ Cold War tome has everything Smith could hope for,
There’s complexity, moral ambiguity, and even the threat of blood and gore.
With rhymes that challenge any cynical, analytical, tough-tufted mind,
Kids will love it for the pictures and story, and leave “Caterpillar” behind.
But ultimately, this article is notable, not for what he leaves out,
Rather, it’s conventional wisdom that he looks to flout.
While parents will likely appreciate Smith’s rant,
Stop reading this book, they most likely can’t.
After all, bedtime reading is where the kids are strong,
And 29 million kids can’t be wrong.
UPDATE: Not a peep from them – not even to say that they received it. Guess they didn’t like it, then.
UPDATE (5/12/14): I ended up sending this to Dan Smith and he, unlike Slate, actually responded. He said he liked it, which I appreciated.