The other day I was going through my home library, looking at the many, many books I have on my shelves that needed to be read. I realized that we all have those TBR piles — mine is one that I’m constantly restocking — but I also seem to have a TBR pile of books that are way past being new. So, I thought I’d start a feature showcasing books that are at least 20+ years old. This will be a way for me to share these older books with you AND a way to clean up my TBR pile!
This feature is called: Past/Present Rewind
One thing I love about books is the fact that no matter what day and age you’re in, a book can still be new and exciting. Take Samuel Butler’s quote for instance:
The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.
Hence, the 20+ year reads for this feature! As you’ll see below, there will be a discussion on the book, a dictionary check, and even a video of me reading some of it! This will happen (I hope) every other Friday.
Today’s pick is:
written by Thomas Rockwell, with pictures by Emily McCully
Published in 1973, by Franklin Watts, New York, London
Grand Canyon Reader Award (1979)
Nene Award (1976)
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1976)
Sequoyah Book Award (1976)
Iowa Children’s Choice Award (1980)
How to Eat Fried Worms is on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Book list from 1990-2000, put forth by the ALA.
My Discussion of the Book
I started reading How to Eat Fried Worms just as the ant apocalypse was happening in my yard this past week. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, there have been a few apocalypses (apocalypsi?) happening this week at my house. Thankfully, the zombies haven’t come, so all is good.
However, when I was scared I’d get swarmed by ants while trying to get rid of some ant hills in the yard (which is not recommended) I came inside and started reading about worms. Surely that meant my dreams would be AWESOME.
If you’re squeamish about bugs and — more specifically — eating bugs, then this is quite the book to read. I don’t think I’ve ever really eaten a bug myself, except for those strays you’d swallow when riding your bike really, really fast. But the bet in this book is that Billy would eat not one, not two, but FIFTEEN worms. If he wins the bet, he’ll get $50.
I don’t know about you, but you’d have to make that at least $500 for me to eat 15 worms, but this book was published in 1973, so maybe with inflation that number would be significantly higher these days. Though, I’ve watched those shows on TV where people eat things so much worse than worms and then they get kicked off the show — probably with some sort of parting gift — but for me it just isn’t worth it!
I had heard of this book growing up and I can’t really remember if I had read it at all. I’m sure I must have, but it definitely seems to be more of a boy book. I was quite squeamish at some points, but all of the gore of eating worms (which Billy and his friends say are just dirt — how is a worm just dirt? Are they born from dirt?) is balanced out by quite a few funny parts that make the story fly by.
Some of my favourite parts are when Billy’s friends, Alan and Joe — the ones who dared him to eat the worms — are going on a fishing trip and they convince Billy’s mom to be the keeper of the worms for a few days. She’s appointed as the referee and will feed the worms to Billy. Little do they know, but his mom finds recipes to mask the fact that Billy’s eating a worm and makes it quite delicious!
I also really loved how crafty Alan and Joe get when they try to cheat on the bed. I mean — what kind of person wants to lose a bet?
There are some really weird parts, too, which I attributed to this being a book written almost 30 years ago. Billy eats a worm and busts out in crazy person song and weird baby talk (?), flapping his arms like wings and scaring his friends. The boys also called each other “finks” a lot of the time … what’s that supposed to mean? Scoundrel? Bastards? Buggers?
I also can’t believe that in a book that’s UNDER 120 pages, there are something like 29 chapters … just a little excessive, if you ask me! But maybe that’s the norm with these middle grade books — although they ALL had a title, one being a picture of smoke. That was a chapter title.
I have to say, too, for such a short book there are a great amount of twists and turns. There’s fighting between the boys which turns into a little rage and violence at one point on Alan’s part (which I wonder what would happen had Billy’s dad not come on the scene!). The boys rough and tumble with each other and it’s written as though they were in a cartoon fighting in a haze of dust, where all you see are arms and legs, hearing punches and kicks.
It really is a fun little book. Fast to read and good until the very end. Sure, it still doesn’t make me want to eat worms, but maybe it’ll make someone want to.
fricasseed – Tom says that Billy can have the worms any way he wants and uses the word ‘fricasseed,’ which means chopped up in a stew; the problem is that half-way or so into the book, when Alan and Joe recruit Billy’s mother to feed him the worms, they say that the worm can’t be chopped up — but in the beginning they agreed that Billy could eat the worms however he wanted. It doesn’t make sense!
apoplectically – Seriously, when I was a kid, I had no clue what this means. Actually, I had to look it up now — apparently it’s akin to being mad? Furious? I’m not sure why Rockwell couldn’t use one of those words!
deracinate – When Alan and Joe are trying to pull one on Billy, Joe says that his dad would deracinate him for eating the worms. What kind of young kid even knows that word? Am I just being ignorant? Apparently, it means “to move people (forcibly) from their homeland.” How does this even fit in with the book? If Joe’s father finds out that Billy’s eating worms, he’d uproot Billy? Or, I guess they could’ve thought Joe was up to no good … maybe this was in the day when they’d send a kid to boarding school in a faraway place?
“It’s too much yuck at once.” (p.63)
“Put the hamburgers back in the refrigerator. We’ll all have worms tonight.” (p.75)
The only one that really stands out to me is the first one … why is there a girl on the cover? I don’t recall there being a girl in the book besides mothers.
Watch me read the first chapter:
Watch the Movie Trailer:
I had no clue this was made into a movie! It looks like they took major liberties with the book, but it looks like a cute enough watch.
Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts? Would you eat worms?
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