Worm Loves Worm by JJ Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato (InfoSoup)
Two worms have fallen in love and decide to get married. They get lots of advice from other insects. Cricket offers to marry them. Beetle insists on being the “best beetle.” The Bees want to be the bride’s bees. Cricket tells them that they need rings for their fingers, but they don’t have fingers so they wear the rings as belts. There has to be a band and a dance even though the worms don’t dance, they just wiggle. Then come the clothes and the cake. But which worm is the bride and which is the groom?
Austrian has created a completely fabulous picture book. What starts as a look at weddings and marriage broadens to become about the ability to marry whomever we love. By the end, the gender of either worm stays completely ambiguous and all that matters is that they can be married to one another because they love each other. The message is simple and creatively shown. The gender-free worms are a perfect pick for the main characters, offering lots of personality without committing to either gender.
Curato’s illustrations are wonderfully jolly. They capture the rather sanctimonious Cricket and the stuffy beetle with their conservative dress and attitudes. The merry bees are more friendly, but also help insist on a bride and groom. The worms themselves contrast with the others in their plainness and joy in one another. While they are unruffled by the rules of being married, their take on love wins in the end.
A celebration of the freedom to marry, this picture book is sure to cause a new stir among the same crowd bothered by And Tango Makes Three. Enjoy! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Balzer + Bray.
Chooky-Doodle-Doo by Jan Whiten, illustrated by Sinead Hanley (InfoSoup)
A fresh little counting book, this Australian import combines numbers with a jaunty rhyme. One little “chooky” chick is unable to pull a big worm out of the ground, so another chick tries to help. Three of them pull and pull then, and the worm just grows longer and longer. Eventually there are six chicks pulling and not able to get the worm out of the ground. Rooster joins them and helps to pull. They pull and pull, bracing themselves on the ground, until pop! The worm lets go and gives them all a big surprise.
Each page asks “What should chookies do?” and leads into the page turn where another chick has joined in helping. The next page then starts with the number of chicks pulling, making the counting element very clear for young readers. The text is simple and has a great rhythm to it. This picture book could easily be turned into a play for preschoolers to act out, since the actions are simple. The reveal at the end is very satisfying and make sure you look at the very final pages to see the smiling worm still happily in the dirt.
The illustrations are done in collage, both by hand and digital. The textures of the papers chosen for the collage offer a feeling of printmaking too, an organic style that works well with the subject matter. The chicks have huge eyes and are large on the page, making counting easy for the youngest listeners. The bright colors add to the appeal.
A great toddler read aloud for units on farms, this picture book will worm its way right into your heart. Appropriate for ages 2-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Fly by Elise Gravel
The Worm by Elise Gravel
The first and second books in the new Disgusting Critters series of nonfiction picture books, these books take a humorous look at the biology of a specific creature. The first book deals with flies, specifically the common house fly. Inside are all sorts of interesting facts like the fly being covered in hair and information on eggs and maggots. More disgusting aspects are played up, which should appeal to young children, like the diet of flies and how germ filled they are and why. The second book is about worms and focuses on their unique anatomy, such as having no eyes and no limbs. There is also a focus on habitat, diet and reproduction. Throughout both books, humorous asides are offered, making this one of the most playful informational book series around.
Gravel combines both humor and facts in her book. She keeps the two clearly defined, with the animals themselves making comments that add the funniness to the books. The facts are presented in large fonts and the design of the book makes the facts clear and well defined. These books are designed for maximum child appeal and will work well in curriculums or just picked up by a browser in the library.
The art in the books, as you can see by the covers, is cartoonish and cute. The entire effect is a merry romp alongside these intriguing animals. I know some people believe that books about science for children should be purely factual, but Gravel’s titles show how well humor and touch of anthropomorphism can work with informational titles.
Information served with plenty of laughs, these science titles will be appreciated by children and teachers. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copies.
Superworm by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The creators of The Gruffalo return with a silly new book that features one incredible worm. Superworm is super-long and super-strong. So when baby toad hops into the road, Superworm becomes a superworm lasso. The bees are bored and moping? It’s Superworm to the rescue with a game of jump rope. When Beetle falls into the well, Superworm turns into a fishing line to get her out. Everything seems to be going so well for Superworm, until a villain enters the story. Wizard Lizard sends his servant crow to capture Superworm and then uses magic to force Superworm to dig for treasure underground. But the others saw Superworm carried off and now it is up to them to be the heroes and save Superworm!
Donaldson writes in rhymes in such a playful and engaging way. The result is a book that reads aloud beautifully and begs to be shared with children. With the examples of the rescues that Superworm performed coming first, I was happily surprised when a villain was introduced and at the turn of events towards the end of the story. It makes for a very dynamic picture book that is sure to be a hit at story time.
Scheffler’s illustrations hit just the right tone. They are bright colored and he takes the rescues and the action to the perfect funny extremes. He also capitalizes on the kid-appeal of bugs, worms and toads.
Add this to your spring time stories, it is sure to be a delight with young readers and listeners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Owly & Wormy, Bright Lights and Starry Nights by Andy Runton
When the first Owly book came out years ago, I made sure to get it into the hands of my own reluctant reader. Unburdened by the need to read words, he immediately took to both Owly and Wormy. I’m happy to say that the series has continued to be just as good as that first book. Runton has started to do more picture book versions as well and this is one of those. In this book, Owly and Wormy go on a trek out of the woods and up to a hill where they will be able to view the stars better. Along the way, they get caught in a rainstorm and take refuge in a cave. There are strange and frightening noises and their telescope has disappeared! It will take real bravery and no fear of the dark to figure out what happened.
This wordless picture book relies on its illustrations to succeed. Happily, Owly and Wormy have a warm friendship that is evident from the very first page. Add the dash of darkness, the storm and a really dark cave and you have a real adventure. All of the content is ideal for the youngest independent pre-readers who will enjoy having a graphic novel of their very own.
Runton takes fear of the dark and the unknown and turns it into a chance to make new friends and see new things in this strong addition to a great series. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Worms for Lunch? by Leonid Gore
Through bright colors and die cut illustrations, young readers explore what different animals eat. The book begins with the question of “Who eats worms for lunch?” A mouse declares that he doesn’t eat worms, instead he likes cheese. A relieved worm disappears from the page. Then a cat spots the mouse, and says that that’s what she would like for lunch. She ends up with a bowl of milk. The cow then declares that milk may be good, but grass is better. On the book goes, moving from one animal to the next until finally the question of who eats worms for lunch can be answered!
This entire book has a great sense of play and humor about it. Every other page has a die cut, making the book more enticing for young children to experience. The simple text and the bright colors combine into a book that is just right for toddlers to enjoy. They will enjoy turning the page and having the story change too.
With its large illustrations, this would work well with a group of children. A good pick for a toddler story time about food. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.
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Yucky Worms by Vivian French, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg
A young boy was in his grandmother’s garden when she found a worm. He is disgusted by it, but his grandmother insists that he should be friends with worms. She then returned the worm to the ground to demonstrate which end of the worm was which. The book goes on to discuss in the grandmother’s voice different aspects of worms, what they eat, how they survive the winter, what worm castings are, and how they help the plants in the garden. The illustrations are light-hearted but can quickly become scientific when called for. This is a great blend of picture book and nonfiction facts presented in a winning way.
French’s use of a grandmother narrator works well here, framing the nonfiction in a story that makes it very approachable. It also allows the narrator to explain misconceptions that the young boy has about worms, like the widely held belief that worms can be cut in two and still survive. Not true! Ahlberg’s illustrations offer asides by the worms themselves, a mole carrying a grocery list, and wonderful views of below the ground.
A great book to share with children who want to know more about these wiggly creatures in the garden, this book reads like a picture book and offers facts for children who are looking for them. Readers of the book will quickly learn that worms are far from yucky. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer by Carol Brendler, illustrated by Ard Hoyt
Winnie loves earthworms. She knows all sorts of facts about them, pulls them around in her wagon, and even races them. But when the county fair rolls around, she realizes that there is no category for her beloved worms to compete in. She speaks with three neighbors. One is growing corn for the fair and needs a good fertilizer. Another is raising chickens and needs the right feed to make them the best egg layers. And the third is raising puppies and needs something to get their coats shining. She makes a deal with each of them that if she finds the answer to their needs they will share the prize with her. Then she uses her worms to help with the corn, the corn to help with the eggs, and the eggs to help with the shiny coats. It’s a clever solution from a bright, scientific girl.
I love any book that breaks with the stereotype of girls not liking worms, dirt or animals. Winnie is a great protagonist for a picture book because she shatters that myth. She holds and hugs worms with delight. I also appreciate how intelligent she is and how she solves her own problems by using her brain.
Brendler’s text is fun to read aloud. She has taken a traditional tale format and modernized it. Readers will find themselves in a traditional format and be surprised, which is delightful. Hoyt’s illustrations are funny, sometimes frenzied, and wiggly with worms. Any worm haters out there will love the reaction of Winnie’s cat as it grimaces about the worms she loves.
A strong heroine in a modern picture book, this wiggly mass of worms is loads of fun. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.