Sunday, July 26, 2015

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

This novel is an amazing epic of action and adventure…starring rabbits!  Fiver is the runt of his litter, but he possesses unique powers to see into the future.  When he has a vision that the Sandleford warren will soon be destroyed by a real estate development, he teams up with his brother Hazel to travel in search of a new home.  After a dangerous journey, the two form a new warren called Watership Down.  All seems well, at least until they cross paths with General Woundwort, the tyrant leader of a nearby warren called Efrafra!

I absolutely loved the chance to dive into the world of the rabbits.  Mr. Adams created an entire universe around his characters, including a rabbit language called Lapine.  Even though wading through all the songs and legends of the rabbits seemed a little tiresome at first, the huge amount of background material served to pull me out of my own two-legged life.  By the end of the book, I was completely immersed in the realm of the rabbits!  It was easy enough for me to accept the idea that these animals could talk amongst one another, form organized colonies with their own governments, and even wage war!

Even though the main characters in Watership Down are a bunch of cute (or sometimes not so cute!) rabbits, this book is really about the theme of a small group facing off against established forms of order.  There are always going to be risks involved when you buck the system and try something new.  Sometimes, if the stakes are high enough, you might even be putting your own life on the line!  Pick up a copy of Watership Down from your library and I can promise you, you’ll never look at pet shop rabbits the same way…  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell

Anyone who’s ever been “put on the spot” will be able to identify with Billy, a 10-year old whose plans to buy a motorbike are suddenly put on hold.  When his friends Alan and Joe dare him to eat a worm, Billy puts his entire savings on the line in an epic bet!  The challenge is for him to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days, with a whole fifty dollars riding on the result.  The story gets even crazier as the deadline approaches, with Billy’s family helping to come up with appetizing recipes…for earthworms!

I loved the way Mr. Rockwell’s writing shows the building tension as Billy’s deadline approaches.  Yes, there’s an awful lot of money on the line in this bet, but what’s really at stake is Billy’s pride.  If he backed out of the gross challenge then his friends probably wouldn’t have the same level of respect for him.  And you know, that’s one really interesting thing about male relationships that Mr. Rockwell completely nailed in this book:  although boys can often disagree with each other, sometimes even to the point of having shouting matches or fistfights, they still have the ability to remain friends!  Even if you’re completely grossed out by the thought of eating earthworms, this book is worth reading in order to study the curious ways that boys interact with their friends. 

We didn’t have the Internet when I was growing up, so back then there was no way for me to check if eating worms posed any kind of health risk.  I took a few minutes to do some research just now, and I learned that worms are, in fact, edible!  You’d want to avoid eating them raw, though, and you’d definitely have to clean the dirt off of them first.  Still, I’d advise against eating fresh worms unless you found yourself stranded on a desert island and starving!  In some countries like Thailand, however, you’d be able to find different varieties of worms prepared and served as appetizers.

What do you think about eating unusual foods like worms or insects?  Do you find the idea gross, or do you think that you might actually like to try them someday?  Do you enjoy trying new foods, or do you prefer to stick to your favorites?