How I Lost Cred with a First-Grader

It was a school visit in Maine. I had just spent a hour telling a roomful of elementary-aged students everything I knew about earthworms and worm farming. As I watched the kids file out of the cafetorium, two boys of about 7 years of age approached me.

“Have you heard of the Mongolian Death Worm?” one asked abruptly.

“N-n-no, I don’t think so,” I replied, searching my rather unreliable gray matter database for any archived information on the species.

“It’s huge!” said the boy. “Like, ten feet long.”

“And it spits acid!” said the other boy. “And gives electric shocks!”

“Cool!” I said. “I’ll have to look it up when I get home.”

As they headed off to catch up with their class, I heard the first boy say to his friend, “I can’t believe she never heard of it.”

Whoa. I let him down, I thought. With all the worm research I’d done, how could I not know about such an amazing and deadly creature?

So I looked it up later. I learned all I could about the Mongolian Death Worm, and I learned a new word:

cryp·to·zo·ol·o·gy [krip-toh-zoh-ol-uh-jee]
the study of evidence tending to substantiate the existence of, or the search for, creatures whose reported existence is unproved, as the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness monster.


The short version is, there is no such thing. It’s a Gobi Desert legend, like the New Jersey Devil or Nessie. Not real. Or maybe it’s real, but not an earthworm. More like a skink or venomous snake and therefore beyond the scope of my annelid research. So there.

I hope it’s not real because it’s scary lethal–and not very photogenic.

Spend two minutes with the Mongolian Death Worm on Animal Planet (video)

Above images from Cryptidz.wikia and Non-alien creatures.wikia

There was a 2010 horror movie featuring it that is rated 3.4 stars out of 10 on imdb. Missed that. Yay.

In an odd twist, a similar-looking creature plays a part in fellow author A.J. Paquette’s novel Paradox!

Skeptoid Here’s where I learned a skeptic’s point of view about the legend. Also learned that the Mongolian language is written using the Cyrillic alphabet. Who knew?

Conclusion: There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. Or not.


Illinois Reads!


A bookmark design.

I feel especially honored (and astonished) to learn that Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer will be on the list of books for the 2014 Illinois Reads program! Here’s more about Illinois Reads.

I’ll let you know when the full list is announced.

Photo of CarolCarol Brendler is the author of the young adult novel RADIO GIRL (Holiday House) September 5, 2013.
Coming 2014: A picture book, NOT VERY SCARY, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, from FSG.
Also by Carol Brendler: WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER (FSG, 2009) a picture book illustrated by Ard Hoyt.

Cover Love

I used to write for a children’s book cover blog with Julie Larios, Patti Brown and Deirdre Mander called “Jacket Knack.” It’s still up, for the most part–have a look. Anyway, I love book cover art and design, so naturally, I ♥heart♥ the art on my own books. Here’s more about them:



Judy Garland, circa 1938. I think this may be a publicity still; the Wizard of Oz was being filmed around the time of Radio Girl.



Deanna Durbin, sheet music for “I Love to Whistle” from the film Mad About Music.



Radio Girl, Holiday House, 2013. Cover art by Mike Koelsch

Cool, yeah? My editor at Holiday House asked me for some input on what Cece should look like (not every author gets to do that!) so naturally, I suggested that she might look like Deanna Durbin or Judy Garland. Both singer/actresses were about fifteen years old in the fall of 1938, and Cece is fourteen. The illustrator, Mike Koelsch, did an amazing job capturing not only her authentic look but also the earnest expression on her face (with just a little trepidation, maybe?). It’s brilliant!

Now here’s where things get a little weird for me. The cover of my first book, Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer, also has–well, you tell me:


Winnie Finn, illustrated by Ard Hoyt, FSG, 2009

Am I imagining it, or is Winnie‘s cover somewhat similar to Radio Girl’s? In the pose? The hair? No?

BUT WAIT! It gets a little weirder • • • Mike Koelsch was also one of the illustrators of the amazing Earthworm Jim character. I kid you not.