Bottom Line: A beautifully illustrated app that will delight children by letting them raise their very own electronic pet, and will bring back many sweet memories for parents who remember Eric Carle’s classic book fondly.
If you would like to download My Very Hungry Caterpillar (iPad/iPhone, $3.99), please use this link so they’ll know who sent you:
No ads or in-app purchases. There is a link in an unprotected area that says it leads to more apps by the developer in the App Store, but when I tapped it, nothing happened.
But he was STILL HUNGRY.
I can still hear my mom reading that line from Eric Carle’s classic book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It was one of my favorite books when I was a kid — for the adorable story of a ravenous caterpillar turning into a butterfly, for the oddly-sized pages complete with holes where the caterpillar had eaten his way through everything from an apple to a piece of cake, and for the gorgeous artwork that’s a hallmark of all Mr. Carle’s books. When I became a parent myself, I couldn’t wait to share that book with my daughter.
Now the book has been turned into one of the most visually stunning apps I’ve seen, and my daughter, who is now too old for the book, is enjoying the sweet story all over again with My Very Hungry Caterpillar by StoryToys Entertainment Limited.
For someone who grew up looking at the illustrations in this book, to see them animated and set to music is a bit of a surreal experience. It’s sort of like watching the Harry Potter movies, where someone clearly reached into my head, pulled out the pictures there, and put them on the screen. The caterpillar here is true to Mr. Carle’s vision, as are the trees and the fruits he eats. The other stuff — rubber ducks, ponds, beach balls and flowers – isn’t from the book, but is beautifully rendered in a style that is true to the book and to the memories of those of us who grew up with it.
The app is simple and meant for children under the age of 5 (although my 7-year-old is entranced by it). The caterpillar hatches from a spotted egg, and it’s the user’s job to take care of him. He has to be fed, entertained and tucked into bed, and after a few rounds of this, he spins his cocoon and emerges as a beautiful butterfly. Then a new egg appears and the cycle begins again. Only this time, there’s a butterfly flitting about in the background. My daughter has played through the app so many times that we now have a small herd of butterflies.
The caterpillar eats a variety of fruits, sails on a pond, and enjoys a swing on a vine. He hangs around while the user grows flowers and fruits in the garden. He also pushes a beach ball around with his nose (which is just about the most adorable thing ever), pops bubbles and runs away from a wind-up ladybug who seems out to get him. My daughter seems far more interested in caring for this electronic pet than in helping me care for the flesh-and-blood puppy we have at home.
One of the best words I can use to describe this app is “soothing.” The music is comforting (and can be muted), and the activities themselves are low-key and calming. There’s no competitive play, no running or racing or timed activities — just nurturing the caterpillar in the midst of the gorgeous artwork.
And the artwork IS gorgeous — a bright patchwork of colors, just like what you remember from the book. It’s truly amazing to me that technology can take a 45-year-old book and bring it to life in such an incredible way.
At $3.99, My Very Hungry Caterpillar is a little on the expensive side, especially for an app designed for toddlers and preschoolers. But based on my daughter’s experience, I think parents will find it’s worth it. Our own Eleanor, who did the wonderful video that accompanies this review, says her preschooler and toddler have played with this app almost exclusively since she downloaded it more than a week ago.
I highly recommend this app for little ones, but it’s also not a bad reminiscence for adults who grew up with the book.
Emilie was delighted to find that the caterpillar in this app gets fatter as he eats, just like he does in the book. SmartAppsForKids.com was paid a priority review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.