How to Eat Fried Worms

Book review by
Norah Caroline Piehl, Common Sense Media
How to Eat Fried Worms Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Kids are sure to devour this gross-out book.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 18 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Beneath the gross humor there really isn't anything going on here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Males and females have very traditional roles within the family. For example, the fathers are called in to hand out punishments after a fight, and Joe says picking flowers is his sister's job. Alan and Joe cheat in order to win their bet, but they lose out in the end.


Nothing too bad. The boys engage in a fistfight, for example. One boy throws a rock at another, hitting him in the eye.


A brief, vague mention of teens in the backseat of their car.


Some minor stuff like "crap."


The parents promise to take the kids to Friendly's for ice cream.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One dad drinks a beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book's title isn't just a gimmick; it's actually a story about eating real, live worms (or, in some cases, worms that have been cooked and killed). Kids will laugh, but adults are likely to get grossed out. There is a fistfight, and two of the boys cheat to win the bet. And since the book was released in 1973, some gender roles seem outdated.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWSD Room14 May 5, 2015

Engaging book -- aligns well with Science units on worm

I used this as a read-aloud in my Gr 2/3 classroom. My students loved it, but I did have to read ahead and alter some of the text to make it more appropriate fo... Continue reading
Adult Written bysusielouhoo April 18, 2013

Educational Value and Morals to Find the Courage to Fight

This is from an educational standpoint of view. I read the book in 3rd grade as a class when I was young, and now that I teach we read it together, make our own... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 8, 2013

I don't need to say. "Just Read It!"

In this story, the main character Billy. His friends, Alan and Joe bet Billy fifty dollars that he can't eat 15 worms in 15 days. So I think he is very cha... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 2, 2013

How to eat fried worm

It is a fun book about a boy eating 15 worms to get a minibike. And it is a bet.

What's the story?

Billy Forrester's always up for a dare, but this time he's in for a real challenge. His friends, Alan and Joe, bet Billy fifty dollars that he can't eat 15 worms in 15 days. Billy survives the first one, chokes down the second, and practically relishes the third.

When Joe and Alan realize that Billy's going to stick to his goal -- and even enjoy doing it -- they try everything they can to keep Billy from reaching his goal. Billy, with the help of his family and his friend Tom, tries to stay one step ahead of their tricks. They even create new recipes -- from Southern Fried Worm to Whizbang Worm Delight -- to help Billy reach his goal.

Is it any good?

There's one thing to be said for HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS: It gets kids to read. Its disgusting premise, a bet about eating worms, is so in tune with middle-grade humor that even kids who say they hate books will read it and recommend it to their friends. In the end, this may not be literature, but the humor will genuinely appeal to kids reluctant to leave behind the silly humor of early reader series like The Adventures of Captain Underpants.

Its short chapters and numerous pictures help young readers ease the transition to longer chapter books. But the book, which has now spawned a movie, will have less appeal for adults. Grown-ups are likely to get tired of the repetition -- there are only so many ways to cook a worm, after all -- and might feel slightly sick along the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why gross-out books are so popular. 

  • Why do you like them -- and is there any kind of situation that would be so gross you wouldn't want to read about it? 

  • Parents might also want to ask kids what the message here is. 

  • Think past the gross stuff: Do the characters end up learning anything? Finally, families who see the movie might want to compare and contrast it with the book. What's different?

  • Which version do you prefer?

Book details

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