In Minnesota author J. J. Austrian’s debut children’s book, Worm Loves Worm, wedding bells are to ring for two earthworms in love. But who is the bride and who is the groom? “We can be both,” they say, each wearing a portion of the traditional nuptial attire. And so they are married, their mutual affection being the only requirement.
Austrian, who wrote the tale as a student in Hamline University’s MFA program, says it was inspired by a conversation with his young son.
“We had been invited to dinner at the [New York] home of our good friends Pam and Leanora, two women who had been together for about 20 years,” he says. “My son had assumed that Pam and Leanora were married, since, like mommy and daddy, they lived together and loved each other. I tried to explain to my son that, at that time in New York State, women couldn’t marry women and men couldn’t marry men. When my son asked, ‘Why not?’ I told him that some people believed it was only ‘natural’ for men and women to marry each other. My son thought about what I had said for a moment and replied, ‘That’s dumb. Pam and Leanora love each other.’ I agreed and wondered why other adults couldn’t see the truth that was so obvious to my son.”
From wedding rings worn “like belts” to agreements to wiggle instead of dance at the reception due to their lack of feet,Worm and Worm (cleverly illustrated by Mike Curato) try their best to conform to the requirements of a customary wedding, but break with tradition when they can’t decide who should wear tux and gown. “We’ll just change how it’s done,” they say simply, and the wedding continues without a hitch.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, it’s a humorous, sweet, and refreshing explanation of the love-is-love revolution—for kids and adults alike.