How to Eat Fried Worms



Kids are sure to devour this gross-out book.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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.

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 And since the book was released in 1973, some gender roles seem outdated.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?

Book details

Author:Thomas Rockwell
Illustrator:Emily Arnold McCully
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:August 24, 2006
Number of pages:116
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of How to Eat Fried Worms was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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 challenging, and I like that part. I want to recommend, who likes animal and nature. Because this is about worms. And also, I think this is good for 9~12.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written byErick is the bests April 9, 2008
Educator and Parent 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 worms, (sliced hotdogs, cooked) and try several different condiments of our own to eat our "worms" with. We tie it together with a bar graph of what was the favorite condiments from least to greatest on a huge bulletin board outside of the classroom, complete with the students eating the fried "worms"! This is one of the students best memories that have came back later in years to see me and recall the book and the details.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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