How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

“‘I win,’ gasped Billy to the blue, cloudless sky. ‘I win.”’

Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: “People are always daring Billy to do zany things. But Billy may have bitten off more than he can chew when he takes his friend Alan’s bet that Billy can’t eat fifteen worms in fifteen days. If Billy wins, Alan has to fork over fifty dollars. Billy wants the money to buy a used minibike, so he’s ready to dig in. He sets up mustard and ketchup, salt and pepper, and sugar and lemon to disguise the disgusting taste. Good news for Billy – once he gets going, he finds himself actually getting hooked on those juicy worms. Bad news for Billy – Alan is busy cooking up schemes to make Billy worm out of the bet. Will Billy keep up his wormy work for fifteen days? No cheating! Keep eating! Worm by worm by worm…”

Review: I know that I read How to Eat Fried Worms when I was younger, but I don’t remember my reaction to the book. I do know, however, that it wasn’t a childhood favorite, which was reiterated during this second reading. There were definitely parts of the book that I enjoyed, especially when Billy’s family got in on the bet and helped him craft meal concoctions to mask the earthworm flavor. Overall, however, the book just wasn’t very interesting. The fact that I don’t have any emotions associated with How to Eat Fried Worms from my childhood (as opposed to how I have felt about other childhood books, like Olive’s Ocean) suggests that I wasn’t overly impressed when I read this book the first time either.

Reason for Ban/Challenge: While reading, I was struggling to determine why this book has frequently been banned. Apparently, it comes down to the fact that How to Eat Fried Worms encourages “socially unacceptable” behavior (i.e., eating worms) and gambling (i.e., betting). Altogether, this line of reasoning is flawed in that it prescribes too much power to a harmless children’s book. When I first read How to Eat Fried Worms, I did not find myself any more inclined to eat worms or place bets than I had been before. This is definitely one of the more ridiculous banned/challenged books on the list, given the book’s innocuous and light-hearted nature.




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