100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Dear Eric Carle, Will You Be My Tattoo Artist?

For a joke, I decided to put a Very Hungry Caterpillar tattoo on my arm and tell my students it was real (just for a minute, then I came clean).

Me (in front of a class of students): I probably shouldn’t be telling you this. But, uh, I got a tattoo.

Class: Whoa!! (I didn’t expect the big reaction that met this announcement.)

Me: I don’t recommend you get a tattoo, but I got one. I think it makes me look pretty tough. (Dramatic pause) Want to see it?

Class: Yes!!

Me (rolling up sleeve): Here it is.

Class: (laughter/confusion as students weren’t sure if it was real, turning to all laughter when I told them is was temporary)

It was fun, but the tattoo ended up lasting way longer than I expected – three weeks or so. And it’s been a warm fall here in Michigan, so I’ve been wearing short-sleeved shirts. The tattoo has been kinda hard to miss.

So here’s the problem/great thing about it – most people thought it was real.

“Did you get a Hungry Caterpillar tat?”

“Wow. You got a tattoo” (This person was not a fan)

“Is that a Very Hungry Caterpillar tattoo on your arm?”

(After explaining it was temporary) “If that was real, we were about to have a moment.” I felt kinda bad robbing this person of that moment.

The longer it stayed on, the more I liked it. So, I’ve decided something. If I ever do get a tattoo, it’s going to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar on my forearm. Maybe I could convince Eric Carle to do the ink himself.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Sara Ralph says:

    As a librarian, this makes me wonder if copyright and trademarks apply to tattoos?

    • Travis Jonker says:

      That’s a good question, Sara. As far as the temporary tattoo goes, that was given out as a promotional item, so I feel like it was made to be displayed and everything’s on the up and up. If I were to actually get a Hungry Caterpillar tattoo, that’s a different story I suppose. I hear the Eric Carle Museum takes donations :)

  2. I never even thought about tattoo copyrights. But it would seem not since the tattoo isn’t being used for profit or personal gain (other than personal enjoyment). At least I never heard of any legal action brought against someone because of a tattoo. If it were the case, I’d imagine all the folks walking around sporting character-based tattoos (say, Superman or Batman or, yes, even the Very Hungry Caterpiller) would be in a world of trouble.

    I’m no expert, of course, but I’d say tattoos aren’t subject to copyright laws. If anything, they’re like free advertisements.

  3. Let me know if you ever decide to go for it Travis….then I will promise to get a Babymouse tattoo also. ;)

  4. That is a cute! Now, you might have to get a real one!

  5. MIchelle T. says:

    You can remove temporary tattoos by using hand sanitizer! Or let it wear off.

  6. I totally have Very Hungry Caterpillar temporary tattoo envy. I can’t find one anywhere on the Internet for sale, so if I’m thinking of some other kind to punk my students with!

  7. I have a literary tattoo of Winnie-the-Pooh! I think Hungry Caterpillar or Babymouse would make a great second tattoo for me. I love how you surprised your students.

  8. That’s not too bad. I’ve seen a lot worse! And anything that makes people laugh is alright with me. :)