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.

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“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?

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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]
noun
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.

source

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.

The Maine Chickadee Award

Looking for worms

Looking for Worms

Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer was one of ten picture books kids read for the Maine Chickadee Award in 2011. Kids in Maine schools heard or read stories chosen by librarians and educators statewide and then voted for their faves. It’s all presented and funded by the Maine Association of School Librarians. What an honor! WFWFShadow

I was invited to tour schools and a library in southeast Maine and talk to hundreds and hundreds of kids about worms and composting. It was great fun, even though lobster was out of season in April. One school served up gummy worm cake for lunchtime dessert. Another school offered a lunch of spaghetti–coincidence?

When I came home, I learned that the students voted for Winnie for 4th place! Here are some of the contenders, from that year and other years.

Worm Crazy kids in Maine!

Worm Crazy kids in Maine!