________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 11 . . . . January 25, 2008


Woolies and Worms.

Stephen MacNeil. Illustrated by John Sandford.
Chicago, IL: Cricket Books (Distributed in Canada by Publishers Group Canada), 2007.
243 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-0-8126-2751-0.

Subject Headings:
Adventures and adventurers-Fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** /4


Thomas’s clapping sent frantic Woolies scrambling everywhere. Freck hustled to dump his red yarn in its proper place and squeezed back through waves of white Woolie suits to stand next to Thomas. Thomas’s next three claps stopped the commotion. Woolies stood shoulder to shoulder forming four sides of a gigantic square. At each child’s feet lay fluffy mounds of yarn, and Freck spotted his armful of fiery red across the square.

“Every Woolie got their feet on the flat?” Thomas asked. Freck joined everyone in two enthusiastic foot stomps.

“Then all you Tweeners shorten up,” said Thomas. “Undies bend your kneelers, and Toppers find your bounce.”

The Tweeners crouched, the Undies fell to their knees, and the Toppers hopped in place. The three groups eagerly grabbed string from the piles of yarn. As a Loose-Ender, Freck knew his job meant staying at the edge. “It’s time,” announced Thomas. “Follow your bellybuttons!”

Woolies burst across the room, their cheers vibrating through Freck’s chest. The square billowed into a sea of color as children zipped back and forth pulling their yarn. The Undies crawled on knees and elbows, braiding long strands of yarn into the mishmash of wool above them. The Toppers turned backflips and somersaults as they twisted their strands into the wool below. Freck ducked when a Woolie sailed overhead, and heard himself say “ooh and aah” when Toppers bounced on the spongy yarn and hovered in midair. The Tweeners crouch-walked through the wool as they pulled their strands behind them. Freck knew it was harder than it looked for Tweeners to keep their yarn above the Undies and below the Toppers.

Miss Sarah Catherine Tufts is travelling to the colonies with her father, Lord Tufts, when pirates attack the ship. Sarah is swept overboard and arrives on a small, isolated island. She learns that Mr. Grim is the father of the pirate captain Black Tooth whom he orders to steal babies. The babies are raised inside the hidden factory on the island. With no memories of the outside world, they are turned into Woolies who make the famous chromatic rugs that every fashionable lady dreams of owning. Those children who are too clumsy or otherwise unsuited to be Woolies or who break the rules are thrown out of Woolie World where they become Worms and must fend for themselves in the ground. Sarah is determined to save the Woolies and Worms, as well as reunite herself with her father. She is hindered not only by Mr. Grim and his younger son, Nigel, but also by Thomas, the oldest Woolie, who doesn’t like Sarah telling stories of the Beyond to the Woolies.

     Woolies and Worms is a good story. The story is paced and flows quite well. The action never completely stops, but the pace varies, which enhances the mood.

     The use of language was good, but I found myself rather lost occasionally in the names that the Woolies had for different things. This may be because I am not a child, so ‘cheeks high,’ ‘bubble-scrub,’ ‘long blink,’ and ‘forever blink’ sometimes tripped me up. The Woolie names for things are also very young-sounding. This helps to show how young many of these children are (all under twelve), but it may not appeal as much to older readers. The names of the colours were very descriptive and hilarious. Bug-belly green, bad-apple black, empty bowl brown and silly-sigh pink are some of the colours of wool that exist on the island.     

     The children all act about their age, including Sarah. Sarah is a very interesting character because of the way she acts. She is the heroine and very easy to identify with, especially with her desire to save the Woolies and the Worms. It comes as a bit of shock when Thomas points out that she is also selfish, which she is. She has her way of seeing things and does not try to see things from the point of view of the Woolies and Worms at first, which is very much a result of her age and also probably because she is the only child of a lord.

     The narrator is mainly Sarah, but we occasionally get the views of other characters, such as Freck and Nigel. This enhances the story because we can see the difference between how Freck views the making of the rugs and how Sarah views the same things.

     Overall, Stephen MacNeil has written a lively story that many children should have fun reading.


Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a student in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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