Cover image for The word eater
The word eater
Amato, Mary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, 2000.
Physical Description:
151 pages ; 22 cm
Lerner Chanse, a new student at Cleveland Park Middle School, finds a worm that magically makes things disappear, and she hopes it will help her fit in, or get revenge, at her hated school.
Reading Level:
590 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.5 4.0 48342.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.8 8 Quiz: 26778 Guided reading level: T.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Life is miserable for sixth-grader Lerner Chanse at her new school, where the MPOOE (Most Powerful Ones on Earth) Club ruthlessly rules over the SLUGs (Sorry Losers Under Ground). Then Lerner accidentally discovers that her pet worm Fip eats paper - with startling results...When he eats a label with the words "Mack's Thumbtacks", all Mack's thumbtacks instantly vanish and papers slip from bulletin boards everywhere! It seems that if Fip eats a word, that item simply disappears from the world - forever. Now that Lerner knows about Fip's magic, she has some extraordinary powers of her own - and some big decisions to make. Should she eliminate crime? Her mean neighbour Bobby Nitz's evil dog? Or simply wipe Cleveland Park Middle School off the face of the earth? Or will destroying anything cause effects that she can't imagine or predict? Lerner soon discovers that extraordinary power brings extraordinary responsibility - but will she learn her lesson in time?

Author Notes

Mary Amato is an award-winning children's book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter. Her books have been translated into foreign languages, optioned for television, produced onstage, and nominated for the children's choice awards in many states. She lives in Maryland.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-6. A hungry baby worm and a lonesome sixth-grade girl named Lerner join forces to create a surprising amount of havoc in this first novel. Fip the worm prefers paper to dirt, but Lerner quickly realizes that whatever Fip eats disappears. For instance, when he eats the words "vending machine," the machine disappears, leaving a pile of candy on the floor. This becomes a moral dilemma for Lerner, as the power to have things disappear can have weighty consequences. If the pace is choppy and the weaving of several side plots (including one involving child labor) becomes confusing, the basic idea is creative, and Amato delivers some intriguing moments. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

This first novel may hold some appeal for bookworms, but a multitude of subplots proves distracting and weakens the tension. There are two basic story lines. The first revolves around a newborn worm named Fip, whose appetite runs to words rather than dirt. The second centers on sixth-grader Lerner Chase, recentlyÄand unhappilyÄtransplanted from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. Lerner discovers Fip and realizes that every time he eats a word, the object it signifies disappears forever. The results of Fip's consumption can be pleasant (Fip eats a vending machine number and unleashes free chocolate bars) or dire (Fip eats the name of a newly charted star, sending its discoverer into a crisis). These developments occasion secondary story lines (e.g., about a sinister tycoon who employs thumb tacks and child labor to train the vicious dogs he sells as "Attackaterriers"). Amato plausibly sketches Lerner's evolving sense of responsibility about Fip's powers, including her panic when he almost eats the word "oxygen" and the name of her teacher Mr. Droan (but ends up devouring the words "Markus Droan's suit" instead.) The classroom dynamics between the ruling elite, Most Powerful Ones on Earth (MPOOEs), and the outcasts, Sorry Losers Under Ground (SLUGs), are believable enough, but with the exception of Lerner, most characters emerge as caricatures or types. Ages 8-12. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-The book opens with the turn of a page on the Bookworm's Desk Calendar, heralding the birth of a seemingly ordinary worm. But this is no common creature, for readers soon learn that he has a voracious appetite for the written word. It is sixth-grade Lerner Chanse who discovers that when Fip eats a word, that object disappears-forever. Lerner is having a hard time finding her place in her new school. She doesn't want any part of the MPOOE club (Most Powerful Ones on Earth), nor does she want to belong to the only other group-the SLUGS (Sorry Losers Under Ground). In a series of clever, if far-fetched events, she daringly uses Fip's power to turn the tide on the MPOOEs. Tongue-in-cheek wordplay in the quote on the desk calendar that opens each chapter prepares readers for the outlandish series of happenings to come.-Doris Gebel, Northport-East Northport Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.