3.31.2010

How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell

I don't remember a lot of what I read in Elementary School. I remember the Babysitters' Club series. I remember Goosebumps. But I don't recall a lot of what I read outside of that. I know there were other books, it's just difficult for me to place them. Until I see them, that is.

In the building in which I reside, many of my neighbors use a bench in our lobby on which to leave clothes and housewares and books - thins they don't need, don't use, or can't sell. As a result of one of these examples I picked up an almost complete set of encyclopedias on WWII.

On my most recent venture, I picked up three history books, a photo album, and a copy of Thomas Rockwell's How to Eat Fried Worms. At last, an unserialized book that I can remember from my kid-dom. At least I thought I remembered it. I recalled that it was about boys, and that one of their mothers was involved but that's all I could glean from my memory. So I sat down and read it.

I was surprised, a little, at the violent lengths these children went to, simply to win a bet. But I was also surprised at some of the vocabulary. I don't think I knew what a cistern was until I was in high school. And yet there's a cistern with no explanation of what it is, or a picture, or anything.

The strangest thing, though, was the involvement of the chapter titles. The book has 41 chapters across a total of 116 pages. So the average chapter length is a whopping 2.8 pages. Yeah. But Rockwell (son of artist Norman Rockwell, by the way) has given some of the chapters names that might make sense to adults, but perhaps not to children ages 6-9.

Chapter 23 - Admirals Nagumo and Kusaka on the Bridge of the Akagai, December 6, 1941.
Chapter 25 - Pearl Harbor
Chapter 26 - Guadalcanal
Chapter 29 - (the name of this chapter is actually a large blob. I thought initially that it might be shaped like the USSR or Russia, but on closer examination no, it's more like a blob of mud, which is appropriate for this chapter)
Chapter 38 - $%#!Blip*+&!
Chapter 39 - The United States Cavalry Rides Over the Hilltop

I get that Rockwell wanted this to be a chapter book, but there's really not enough material here for all that. So what we end up with is a page covered only 60% by story text (at a 12pt font) and then a blaring chapter title across the top of 70% of the pages (each title spans two pages) and that's in 22pt font, which is blaring.

What I'm trying to say is, from an adult perspective, it's distracting. And in terms of being a book for kids that, according to my younger cousins, teachers are still reading in class, it doesn't seem to teach much at all.

It's a cute read and I'm sure children will continue to enjoy themselves with it, but it seems a little dated now in the way that parents these days watch their children - four 10-yr-olds hanging out each afternoon in a barn, out of parents' sight? In 1973, maybe. Not today.

1 comment:

  1. My mom made me go through all my books from my younger years this week... oh the memories. I'm keeping my Madeline L'Engles, Dinotopias, and other gorgeous hardcovers (like The Mitten). Everything else (including innumerable Babysitter's Club installments), is going straight to the thrift book store!

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