Wiggle and Waggle by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Mary Peterson (2007, Charlesbridge, 48 pp, ages 4-8)
Wiggle and Waggle tells of the simple doings/diggings of two worms (the eponymous Wiggle and Waggle), in 5 well-illustrated chapters. This book works very well both as a read-aloud and as an early reader. I tried it on my children (4 and 6) last night as both, with great success. Of course, its worth as an early reader was perhaps compromised by the fact that I had to read it out loud three times at the request of the 4 year old before the 6 year old got a chance to try.
The doings of the worms are simple--they work in the garden (dig dig dig), go on a picnic, go swimming, and dig some more. As an adult forced to re-read ad nausem, I would have liked a bit more--the worms are not as well characterized as Frog and Toad, for example, and their adventures not as compelling. But according to my children, this book was just as good if not better.
Caroline Arnold has written more than 130 children's books, mainly non-fiction, so it's not surprising that this book also includes an information page about worms at the end. I appreciated this, although I am not sure that my life is better for knowing that there are earthworms that grow to be 22 feet long. That's too long.
The illustrations are simple, with touches of whimsical detail -- after eating their picnic, for instance, the worms have round little tummies, which delighted my youngest. It is a tricky thing, I imagine, to illustrate an early reader--one doesn't want illustrations that distract too much from the text, but they still should be interesting. I think Peterson does a fine job striking that balance. The book itself is very handsome. Even thought the words themselves are simple, and the chapters short, the hardcover edition I have looks much more like a Real Book than most early readers, which is all to the good.
I am doing my best to ensure that my children like worms. We go to the compost pile to look for "wormies" -- "Oh wormy-squirmy! wormy-squirmy! how sweet!" says 4 year old; but sadly, my 6 year old has been affected by peer pressure, and has been known to say "gross." So I was glad to bring home this pro-worm book (joining the ranks of Diary of A Worm, and Richard Scarry's books about Lowly).*
"This book should be called Cute Wormies," said my 4 year old, a pretty good summation of this charming, but not particularly deep (dig related pun) book.
From Arnold's website, here's the story of how Wiggle and Waggle came to be written, here's a link to an activities page, and finally, here's a link to a Wiggle and Waggle YouTube video.
*Lowly Worm is still my favorite fictional worm, even though I didn't get the pun until I was about 25. Sigh.
NB: I was given my copy by the publisher.