In last year’s summer-reading program through our local library, my elder daughter chose as her prize a large stuffed snake. It now spends each day, in its six feet of plush glory, coiled on her bed. My daughter always loved snakes, so imagine my surprise when she recently developed an intense and prohibiting fear of worms. She spent a long car ride trying to explain why snakes are NOT like worms, and why worms are fearsome creatures, whereas snakes are “just a little wild.” I still don’t understand, but I persuaded her to read some books with me about worms so that we could both better appreciate the critical function of worms. We may fear earthworms in my family, but we are certifiable book worms. Here are some of my favorites:
- Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel and Nick Bruel
This story of friendship begins with a worm and a caterpillar and ends with a worm and a butterfly. But when Otto the earthworm begins to feel left behind by Bob’s amazing transformation, Bob reminds his friend of all the important work Otto does. Through bold, bright illustrations befitting a butterfly, this story teaches Otto to see himself as essential to both the health of the earth and to his beautiful friend, Bob.
- Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne and Keith Bendis
I couldn’t resist playing with the bookworm idea, so this book is not really about worms at all. Originally, the term bookworm did refer to worms, and it was (and some would say still is) derogatory in its emphasis on “excessive” reading. Yet in this story, Calvin’s reading comes in handy, and he demonstrates that being a bookworm—much like being a worm—can enrich everything around us.
- The City Worm and the Country Worm by Linda Hayward and Carol Nicklaus
Using the delightful and underappreciated Sesame Street character Slimey the worm, this fictional tale plays with the traditional city mouse/country mouse story. We see two worms in two different worlds; Slimey and his country cousin Squirmy convey a little bit of scientific knowledge and a lot of charm to make the oft-devalued earthworm endearing.
- Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals and Ashley Wolff
As an alphabet book and a “recipe” for a compost heap, this book teaches readers how worms work as nature’s recyclers. The text itself is a collage composed of recycled materials; its playful rhymes advocate that we readers take a cue from our squirmy eyeless friends and make the work a richer place even with what seems like waste.
- An Earthworm’s Life by John Himmelman
With earth-toned illustrations and simple text as well as a glossary and key scientific facts (like the earthworm’s Latin name and its reproductive habits), this scientific text works great for readers at multiple levels. It’s readable, engaging, and fulfills the author’s subtitled mission of showing audiences a new perspective of nature, up close.
- Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer and by Steve Jenkins
This alliteratively-titled book shows the work worms do through the seasons, above ground and underground. It provides detailed descriptions and large-scale images to show a worm’s lifecycle and usefulness for the soil. The book concludes with questions and experiments so readers can further explore earthworms.
- Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer by Carol Brendler and Ard Hoyt
In this fictional story about a county fair, we meet the intelligent, persistent protagonist Winnie Finn, who, as the title tells us, is a worm farmer. She prepares herself and her neighbors for big prizes at the fair by putting her creativity and her wiggly charges to work throughout the food chain. The book concludes with an activity where kids can apply Winnie’s skills to their own worm farms (or, learn how to make a worm farm here).
- Yucky Worms by Vivian French and Jessica Ahlberg
French and Ahlberg tell two tales at once, often side by side on the pages to mirror the gardeners’ toils above ground and the worms’ lives above and beneath the soil. Part fiction and part scientific text, this story reveals the parallel lives we lead with worms so that maybe we’ll stop calling them yucky and start admiring their wonderful wiggly ways.
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