A few months ago my husband and I started reading chapter books to our kids at night before bed. Since they’re only 6 and 4, I was afraid they would be bored since there are no pictures, but we’ve all been happily entertained reading the likes of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “Freckle Juice” and “The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog.”
Our most recent selection was Thomas Rockwell’s “How to Eat Fried Worms” – a book I fondly remembered from childhood. I even purchased it because I thought it would be “bookshelf worthy.” I couldn’t wait to hear the kids’ giggles and gags at the descriptions of eating worms, and I was excited to revisit the story myself.
But here was the problem – I didn’t enjoy it this time around. And the kids weren’t that enthused about it either.
In the book, Billy makes a $50 bet with Alan that he can eat 15 worms in 15 days, and he plans to use the money to buy a mini-bike. Their two friends, Tom and Joe, pick sides – Tom with Billy and Joe with Alan. And that about sums it up.
There’s just not much else to the story, and much of it was awkward to read aloud. For example, the conversation on the opening page is confusing because you never know for sure which boy is speaking. It’s a book of 116 pages and 41 chapters – yes, that means lots of three, two and even one-page chapters, which made for choppy reading.
And at the end, I even had to do a little censoring when one boy says “you’re a bastard” to another boy.
What?! Why did I not remember that?
I think I said he called his friend stupid, or something lame like that. At this point, I had to know more about the background of the book because honestly, it was nothing like what I remembered. I was beginning to wonder if I had ever even read it.
Rockwell wrote it in 1973, and it won 10 awards. In the mid-1980s, it was turned into a CBS Storybreak episode (remember those?), and in 2006, it was made into a movie by the same name, which I have not seen.
Now here is the funny part: The book is on the American Library Association’s list of most commonly challenged books in the U.S. for 1999-2000 because apparently, a segment of the population thinks the idea of eating worms as part of a bet is disgusting. … Well, yeah. But I don’t think it warrants the book being pulled from library shelves.
The word “bastard” that I chose to skip over when reading it to my little ones – it was replaced by the word “fink” in later editions.
I’m beginning to think maybe I never read it, and all of my fond memories are from the Storybreak episode. We were all indifferent to the book, but the good news – apparently, we have a first edition.
Tags: children's book