Great Illustrated Books

The Word Eater

By Mary Amato, Illustrated by Christopher Ryniak

Holiday House, 2005
Pages : 151
Suggested Ages: 8-12
ISBN: 9780823419401

Sixth grader Lerner Chase, new girl at Cleveland Middle School, is considered a slug (Sorry Loser Under Ground) by the popular kids in the MPOOE (Most Powerful Ones on Earth) Club. As Lerner soon discovers, her new pet worm, Fip is a most unusual fellow. Fip is an outcast in the worm world; instead of dining on dirt, as worms are wont to do, he much prefers to eat the print off a page. First, the little worm nibbles the words "Mack's Thumbtacks" off the label on the box. Instantly, that brand of thumbtacks disappears from earth. The repercussions reverberate worldwide, as papers fall off bulletin boards everywhere. Lerner and Fip become allies in an entertaining and pointed satire about the power of words and the responsibility that comes with power. Once Lerner recognizes Fip's singular talent, she feeds him the words "spinach soufflé" off the school lunch menu. Poof! Spinach soufflé vanishes everywhere. Now Lerner compiles a list of words her worm might eat, including tooth decay, fractions, and Mad Cow disease, but soon comes to realize the gravity of her actions when she arranges for Ripper, a mean Attackaterrier dog, to cease to exist.

Readers can make a list of words they'd consider having Fip eat, and trace the possible consequences, large and small, if those words were gone for good. The story packs in many meaty issues to ponder and, if you're reading the book aloud, to discuss with listeners, including the use and abuse of power, the tyranny of school cliques with their leaders and followers, the triumph of social outcasts and downtrodden children, and a look at individual accountability in perpetuating good or evil. And it's great fun to read, to boot.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Amato, Mary. The Naked Mole-Rat Letters. Holiday House, 2005.

Amato, Mary. Please Write In This Book. Holiday House, 2008.

Banks, Lynne Reid. Harry the Poisonous Centipede. Morrow, 1997.

Clements, Andrew. Frindle. Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Dahl, Roald. Matilda. Viking, 1988.

Evans, Douglas. Apple Island or, The Truth About Teachers. Front Street, 1998.

Fleischman, Paul. Weslandia. Candlewick Press, 1999.

Frasier Debra. Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster. Harcourt, 2000.

Gutman, Dan. The Homework Machine. Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Law, Ingrid. Savvy. Dial, 2008.

Napoli, Donna Jo. The Prince of the Pond. Dutton, 1992.

Sachar, Louis. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Morrow, 1998, c1978. (And others in the Wayside School series.)

Sanvoisin, �ric. The Ink Drinker. Delacorte, 1998.

Spinelli, Jerry. Loser. HarperCollins, 2002.

Tarshis, Lauren. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. Dial, 2007.

Vande Velde, Vivian. Smart Dog. Harcourt, 1998.

Critics have said

"Tongue-in-cheek wordplay in the quote on the desk calendar that opens each chapter prepares readers for the outlandish series of happenings to come."
School Library Journal