Just a Worm
By Marie Boyd
Worm is inching along on a beautiful summer day singing a happy little ditty: “La la la la… Slop, slip, wiggle. / I’m taking a little twirl. / Dop, dip, squiggle. / I’m off to see the world.” And so he was! But on his way he passed two kids who just didn’t see worm the way he saw himself and made him wonder…. Worm bolstered his self-confidence, telling himself that there were a lot of things he could do.
Just then he wiggled up to a row of brilliant purple flowers, where caterpillars, a chrysalis, and a butterfly were hanging out. Just out of curiosity, worm asked one of the caterpillars what she could do, and—Wow!—when he learned about making a chrysalis and metamorphosis, and becoming a butterfly, he was impressed. And maybe a bit intimidated.
Butterfly also seemed to have multiple talents as did Spider and Dragonfly, who informed worm that he’d never be able to fly because he was “‘just a worm.'” Worm seemed resigned to his fate when he came upon ladybug and asked what she could do. Ladybug said, “‘I protect plants by eating insects, like aphids.'” This reminded worm that he did have a talent. “‘I eat dead animals and plants and keep the garden clean,'” he said with growing confidence.
By the time worm meets bee, he’s ready to advocate for his own contribution to the garden. Then when snail crawls by and tells worm about the slime that protects him, worm realizes he’s found a friend he can relate to because worm makes slime too! Snail thinks that’s pretty cool, and worm agrees! In fact, worm understands that he can do a lot of things and that many of them benefit the garden. He even lists them all for snail, and as he looks around at the beautiful flowers and luscious berries, he takes some credit for growing “all of this” and proudly states “I’m a WORM!”
Marie Boyd’s clever story combines salient information about a variety of insects with worm’s confidence-boosting journey from feeling inferior to the other garden dwellers to realizing his own role and importance in the plants’ growth and vibrancy. From page to page, readers can sense worm’s developing appreciation for his talents, and when he shakes off his misgivings and gives ladybug a small list of his accomplishments, kids will be right there to cheer him on. Readers may be surprised to discover just how much worms do contribute to a healthy garden ecosystem even as they come to understand that there is no such thing as “just a worm” in nature. Worm’s personal growth will also resonate with children, who are trying out new things and beginning to find their place in the world.
Boyd’s beautiful and original illustrations, created with intricate paper quilling are wonderfully detailed, textured, and expressive of the uniqueness and interconnectivity of nature. She also weaves in metaphorical clouds, which at worm’s lowest point, turn grey and black as they build overhead. But with his newfound confidence, they dissipate to be replaced with white, fluffy clouds that also blow away to reveal a clear, blue sky.
A multilayered story that delivers two important life lessons in a unique and charming way, Just a Worm will become a quick favorite for home, school, and public library story times. The book would be especially fun to pair with home gardening or planting activities for classrooms, libraries, and extracurricular organizations.
Ages 4 – 8
Greenwillow Books, 2023 | ISBN 978-0063212565
About Marie Boyd
Marie Boyd is a law professor, author, illustrator, and self-taught quilling artist. Her author and illustrator debut, Just a Worm (Greenwillow Books 2023), follows worm through the garden as he learns about his neighbors and how he helps keep the garden healthy. Originally from Salt Lake City, Marie lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and two young children. You can find her at marieboyd.com and on Instagram.
Just a Worm Book Birthday Activity
Make a Quilled Snail
Author/illustrator Marie Boyd built worm’s gorgeous garden world with quilled paper, and now you can make worm’s friend snail for yourself with this tutorial on her website!
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