What parents need to know
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 And since the book was released in 1973, some gender roles seem outdated.
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.
Families can talk 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?