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'Experts' Complain That Books Like 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' Lack Accuracy

Let’s pretend you’re a children’s librarian and a kid comes up to you and asks for help finding books for his project on bears. Would you point him in the direction of Little Bear, Winnie The Pooh, and Paddington? (If your answer is yes, it’s probably best you’re not a children’s librarian. Or, if you are a children’s librarian, it’s probably best if you start looking for another job.)

The answer to whether you’d point the kid in the direction of those books, obviously, is no. Those are works of fiction. Excellent ones, for sure, but no one would assume they accurately represent the species. They wear clothes, talk, and live in houses, for starters. They are meant to entertain, not instruct.

You know this. I know this. But, apparently, some people are a little confused. An article published last week on AtlasObscura.com called "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lied to You As a Child" highlights the frustration some people are having with the fact that children’s books aren’t “accurate.”

Yes, you heard me right. Some biologists are apparently very concerned that, in books geared toward children, animals do things like talk, wear clothes, and live in homes made for people. That would never happen in real life. So why is it happening in a book? Um . . . well . . . because . . . it’s a book!

Slightly less ridiculously (but only slightly), the article says that some of these scientists are concerned that many fictional books for kids contain incorrect biological information. One entomologist, for example, is having a hissy fit about The Very Hungry Caterpillar because butterflies emerge from chrysalises, not cocoons. Jeez, Eric Carle. Get your act together. (Caterpillars also don’t eat lollipops, but maybe we can let that slide since the title specified that he was very hungry, not just a little bit hungry, and all kinds of weird things happen when you’re starving. Even to caterpillars.)

Similarly, there is concern over things like animals from different regions inhabiting the same story, and landscape illustrations that include “inaccuracies.” Not to mention featuring only well-known animals and leaving out animals specific to the regions where the readers live. Or, as the article puts it: “Kids who grow up reading only about tigers don’t know to teach their own kids about the colocolo.” Coming soon: The Colocolo in the Hat. A cautionary tale reminding youngsters never to put headwear on wild animals. None of the lines scan but the pictures will be accurate.