This series of stories for children aged 6-11 is based on the adventures of two earthworms, Sammy and Mr. Sammy, and the two girls, Loring (8) and Clara (6), who love them.
The adventures are fantastical and funny. The writing contains wacky wordplay, rhyme, and the confusions of humans learning about a worm’s world – and vice-versa. Besides the anthropomorphic worms, we also meet a bumptious bluebird and some very skeptical neighbors. Future stories feature an opera-singing centipede and a ticklish platypus.
The stories are based on some 100 hours of spontaneous storytelling captured on tape, so there exists more source material for future stories. They have been read and honed in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes at Swarthmore-Rutledge School in Swarthmore, PA, some of whose students provided the drawings that accompany the drafts on this page.
If you would like to read this entire story, please contact the author.
Shoot The Chute
Sammy the Worm lived in the flower garden under the birdbath in back of the Cunninghams’ home. It was just a hole in the ground, but Sammy loved it. He loved the way he could slide down to his living room on days after it rained. He loved curling into an “O” in front of the fire on frosty winter evenings. And most of all, he loved to snuggle in his warm, dirt bed. He’d lie in it and dream about all the things Up There.
Up There was where they lived. Loring and Clara, the humans. That’s what most everybody but Sammy called them. He called them “Longies,’ because he thought they looked like super-long worms–“Longies,” for short. Except Loring and Clara had arms and legs. Oh, he wished he had arms and legs! There was just so much more you could do with them. Like scratch your head. Or run like a rabbit. Or hop from one foot to the other. Heck, Sammy didn’t even have a foot to hop to!
All he could do was inch. And inching was so slow! Sammy did stretching exercises to lengthen his body so he could go faster. “You know inchworms?” he said to his father. “Well, I’m going to make myself into a foot worm!”
“Why stop at that?” his father replied. “Make yourself into a yard worm, then you could really go places!” Sammy’s father loved to tease. But just because he didn’t want arms and legs, didn’t mean Sammy didn’t.
One day when Sammy was inching along the Cunninghams’ back porch, he heard crying. And crying meant tears and tears meant water and water meant some slick-sliding possibilities, like scudding across the porch on your tail, and you didn’t need arms and legs to do that! He was just reaching a particularly inviting pool of tears when Clara suddenly said, “Look, a worm!,” and picked Sammy up before he could squiggle away.
Sammy was lying in the palm of a Longie! What if Clara squeezed him– and he shot right out of her fist?! What if she clapped her hands– and he was in-between them?! What if she suddenly decided to go fishing– and he was the bait?!
So Sammy did what every worm does in a tight squeeze: he started to wriggle. And Clara started to giggle. And the more he wriggled, the more she giggled. Wriggle-giggle- giggle-wriggle-giggle!
Because Sammy the Worm had made them laugh in the first days of their parents’ divorce when they had wondered if they’d ever laugh again, Loring and Clara would rush to find their new friend each time they visited their father. They discovered all kinds of games worms and Longies could play together, including Roll-The-Sammy, in which Sammy curled up like a bowling ball and the girls rolled him between them, and Bounce-A-Worm, in which Sammy lay on the trampoline and one girl bounced him high while the other tried to catch him.
One bright and summery day, however, they found a different worm in the garden, one wearing wire-rim glasses and a tiny, green, oak-leaf apron around his middle. He was lying on his back, sweeping dirt away from his wormhole with a dandelion broom.
“Why would anyone sweep dirt away from a dirt hole?” wondered Loring. Clara, more inclined to action than words, thrust her face next to the worm’s to find out. “Who’re you, and what are you doing?” she demanded.
Far from being startled that a Longie would speak to him, the worm (who was actually Sammy’s father) put down his broom, dusted himself off, and began to present himself. “I’m Mr. Sammy-” he began. But that was as far as he got.
“You must be Sammy’s father!” shouted Clara.
“I most certainly am,” he began again. “I’m Mr. Sammy-“
“Loring, look, it’s Sammy’s father, Mr. Sammy!” Clara interrupted again.
“Actually, my full name is-“
“Glad to meet you, Mr. Sammy,” said Loring, and stuck out her hand to shake.
There was an awkward pause during which Loring and Sammy’s father both wondered how to shake hands if one of you doesn’t have a hand to shake with?! Finally, he stood on his head and offered Loring his tail. She stood on her feet and offered him her index finger. Sammy’s father wrapped himself around it, and finger and worm moved gently up and down together, creating, perhaps, the world’s first wormshake. And in the confusion of the moment, Sammy’s father never did get to tell them his full name.
When Clara tried a wormshake, she shook Mr. Sammy so hard he felt like he was riding a bucking beetle in the wormeo– which the brave worm had once tried in his younger days. He was just wondering if this would also end with him flying into the wild blue yonder when Clara whipped her finger particularly hard and the wormshake ended with Mr. Sammy flying into the wild blue yonder.
Just For The Heck of It
One morning Sammy the Worm was enjoying the “wondo’s of the sack.” That was his daddy’s phrase for anything wonderful” that had to do with lying around. Sleeping was a “wondo of the sack.” So was reading in bed. And so was snuggling under a mapleleaf quilt when you didn’t have to get up and could let the dreams drift in and out.
Today, however, Sammy’s snuggly dreams were interrupted by the “tap-a-tap-tap” of something Up There. He tried scrinching down under his pillow to shut out the noise. Tap- a-tap-tap. He tried stopping up one ear with his tail and the other with his quilt. Tap-a-tap tap. “I might as well de-sack and see what’s going on,” sighed Sammy. So he slithered out of his dirt bed and up the tunnel to the garden.
When he popped his head out of the wormhole, he found his father studying a most curious contraption. Two longish sticks were tied together in a “T.” At each end of the vertical stick, an acorn had been tied like a wheel, with one of Loring’s hairbands stretched in between. At each end of the horizontal stick, a miniature pine cone had been banged into place with Mr. Sammy’s pebblestone hammer.
“How do you like it?” asked his father proudly.
Sammy was sure he would have liked it just fine, if he’d only known what it was. He didn’t want to hurt his father’s feelings, however, so he said enthusiastically, “Great!”
“Good. I need you to help me ride it.”
“Of course. That hairband is pulled around the acorns when we pedal the pine cones.”
“Pedal the pine cones?!” Sammy asked, then added anxiously, “We?”
“With our tails. That stick across the top is the mouthelbar. Longies have hands, but we have to steer with our mouths.”
“Steer with our mouths?!” Sammy exclaimed.
Sammy could think of a lot more “else.” Pushing a pine cone with his tail, while holding a stick in his mouth, did not sound like his idea of a good time. Considering this contraption was also expected to move while he was stretched out like a tightrope didn’t make it feel like a better time, either.
“Daddy, what is this thing?” he stalled.
“Thingamabob,” said his daddy. “It’s a bicycle built for two. I got the idea from watching Loring and Clara.”
Loring and Clara did indeed have some wonderful times riding about town on an old bicycle built for two. Loring steered from the front and Clara issued orders from the back. It looked like great fun, and was another reason Sammy sometimes envied Longies their arms and legs. But without arms and legs, how was a worm supposed to ride a bike?!