Q&A with Kevin R Free
Q&A with Kevin R. Free, Narrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Eric Carle Picture Book Series on Audio

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.”

So begins the beloved picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. First published in 1969, this tale of one tiny creature’s massive appetite blossomed into a whole world of adventuresome critters, from clumsy click beetles and sloooow sloths to the strangest creature of all: humans (ahh!). And now Eric Carle’s picture books are being brought to life as audiobooks read by actor and multiple Earphone Award-winning narrator Kevin R. Free.

Kevin’s voice, along with music and original sound effects (see what our producers have to say about those below the interview!), combine to make for an audio experience that little ones and adults can enjoy together, whether reading along with the books or just listening before bed. We caught up with Kevin to ask what it was like to become the voice of these iconic books—and which Eric Carle critter he likes best.

You’ve narrated an incredible array of audiobooks, including bestselling and award-winning fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. What was it like for you to narrate these classic picture books?

I was really nervous about recording the collection until I got into the booth, and my director, Paul Fowlie, set me at ease. Recording this collection knowing that they’d be listened to by young people was also really calming.

Which Eric Carle critter is your favorite, and why? (So many to choose from—Firefly, Click Beetle, Sloth, Seahorse, Caterpillar—just to name a few!). Did you have a favorite scene or moment from your recording sessions?

I love all the critters, but I’m partial to the firefly, because I love how it finds its community! I can’t remember a favorite moment during the session, but I do remember breathing a sigh of relief when I received compliments from producers Aaron Blank and Molly Lo Re. I didn’t even know how much hearing compliments from them would mean to me!

Did you do anything special to prepare for your days in the recording studio, or have any special treats ready when you were done recording?

Well, I listened to some reference recordings of the books and they just made me nervous! I did what I normally do to prepare—I thought about what the narrator’s point-of-view was for each book, and then made sure I had a good night’s sleep before we began. As for treats—it’s funny, I don’t normally seek treats after a session, but I do remember what I made for dinner that evening, because it was one of my favorite meals throughout 2020: Spicy Oven-Fried Rice by Susan Spungen.

And last but not least, is there a book or audiobook that you would recommend to children and/or adults right now?

My goodness, thank you for asking! For both adults and young adults, I’d recommend the following titles, all narrated by me (I loved recording all of these): This Town Is Not All Right by M.K. Krys, The Book of Fatal Errors by Dashka Slater, A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson.

On Making the Sound of Fireflies: A Special Note from Our Producers
“Our audio editions of these beloved Eric Carle books feature both music and sound effects to help bring the stories to life. We take our cues from the illustrations and the text, using sound to underline the sense of wonder and hope that run though all of Eric Carle’s books. The sound effects were particularly enjoyable to puzzle over. These books had us asking really fun questions like – what kinds of different sounds does a chewing insect make? (Especially important for The Very Hungry Caterpillar). What sound effect best represents a firefly? (Key to the sound in The Very Lonely Firefly). We decided an energetic buzzing would do the trick. One of the audio editors actually consulted her young son about which sound effects he liked best in a few instances!”

—Aaron Blank and Molly Lo Re, Penguin Random House Audio Producers

Listen to a clip of Kevin R. Free reading The Very Lonely Firefly:

Learn more about The World of Eric Carle picture books-on-audio and listen to more clips read by Kevin R. Free by visiting our complete collection.