Just a Worm by Marie Boyd

Hello, Marie Boyd! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! What planted the seed for Just A Worm, your fun-to-read-aloud picture book debut?

Marie Boyd: Hi, John Schu! Thank you for having me here on Watch. Connect. Read.! I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks also for all you do to advocate for children, books, and educators!

The seed was planted for Just a Worm when I went on walks with my son. I’d often tell him “It’s just a worm” when we saw worms on the sidewalk. One day I asked myself “what might a worm feel if it could understand my words?” That question led to Just a Worm.

Scenario: A first-grade teacher asks you to booktalk Just A Worm to his students. What do you share?

Marie Boyd: I’m so glad you asked this question because my first-grade teacher had a significant impact on me!

I’d start by sharing that when I was in first grade, my teacher gave me a beautiful blank book to write and illustrate a story. I found it terrifying (I was just learning to read and write and he expected me to write and illustrate an entire book?) and thrilling (I was learning to read and write and he thought I could write and illustrate an entire book!). I spent so much time working on drafts that I never finished that book, but I knew then that one day I wanted to write and illustrate a book and it has been one of my dreams since.

I’d also share that first-grade dreams can come true. Just a Worm represents one of my first grade dreams—and a lot of hard work and persistence!

I’d round out the talk by talking about my inspiration for Just a Worm, which I shared above, and how the students can look for inspiration in their lives. I’d also draw on the back matter and ask the students to consider how they contribute to their family, school, and community. One of the things I hope students will take away from the book is that everyone has something to contribute.

Finally, I’d talk a bit about quilling—the cut-paper technique I used to illustrate Just a Worm—and do a quick demonstration.

I’d also thank the first-grade teacher who asked me to talk about Just a Worm for the important work he and other teachers are doing. I had wanted to thank my first-grade teacher for years, but he moved away when I was a kid, and I didn’t know where he had moved. A couple of months ago, right before Just a Worm came out, I made another attempt to find him, and I did! I was so pleased to be able to finally say thank you!

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Worms are underappreciated. They are certainly not the flashiest garden inhabitant, but they have a significant impact on soil structure. As decomposers, worms break down organic matter.

They produce castings (yes, that’s worm poop), which is a great fertilizer for plants. They also make soil more porous so air and water can move through it.

Picture books are important. They encourage children to see the world around them and themselves in new ways. They also introduce children to new people, ideas, and things. They can also be a lot of fun! One of my favorite parts of my day is reading with my kids every night before bed.

John Schu, you should have asked me how I illustrated Just a Worm. I had never seen a picture book illustrated with quilling, but whenever I imaged Worm’s garden, I imagined it quilled. I’m thrilled that my agent and editor believed in my vision and that I was able to illustrate Just a Worm with quilled paper. I coiled, curled, and shaped narrow strips of paper and then glued them on edge to make the illustrations. I hope that Just a Worm will introduce many kids to quilling. There is a quilling tutorial in the back matter, and I hope it will encourage kids to try quilling. I also share a video tutorial for quilled snails on my website at www.marieboyd.com.

John Schu thanks again for having me on your blog! I would love to connect with readers on my website at www.marieboyd.com and on Instagram @artistscholar. Happy reading!

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and inspiring responses, Marie! 

Marie Boyd studied chemistry in college and is currently a law professor at the University of South Carolina. An expert in cosmetics and food regulation, she loves spending time outside, whipping up new creations in the kitchen, and—of course—quilling! Just a Worm is her first book for children. Marie Boyd currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her family.


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