Scott Tulloch, I am not a Worm, Scholastic (NZ), July 2014, $NZ 19.50 (pbk), 32pp., ISBN 978-1-77543-251-7
If you are into macabre or black humour, this is great text for you. The space of black humour is a liminal space where both joyous laughter and distress at discomfort is experienced at the same time. Hence it is that some of my students delighted in this picture book (with one class of 23 students nominating it as their NZ picture book-of-the-year) whilst another individual student “hated it” and assessed the book as the worst! That’s the conundrum of the macabre as a source of humour.
Little caterpillar is confronted by a chameleon who asserts that little caterpillar is a worm. Chameleon persists in asserting his beliefs despite caterpillar’s arguments to the contrary. To misquote the text: “Hello idiot.” “I am not an idiot. I am a reviewer. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Not an idiotic reviewer?” “No. Just a reviewer.” “Are you sure?” “YES!” “Well, I think you are grumpy.” “I AM NOT GRUMPY. I AM A REVIEWER…” You get the picture. Caterpillar of course undergoes a metamorphosis. “Hello caterpillar.” “I am not a caterpillar.” “I thought you said you were a caterpillar.” “I used to be a caterpillar.” “Are you sure…?” In a Darwinian world, there is one surety that does exist when there are carnivores and their prey. Turn to the last page and respond to the chameleon that is licking his lips whilst saying rather smugly, “I like butterflies.”
If you share this funny picture book, you might well get contradictory responses at the end; the pleasure of laughter as much as the distress at the loss of innocence. Try it out! Then introduce an integrated science inquiry unit on the tricks that carnivores play. Will laughter persist? Recommended.
reviewed by John McKenzie