Dried Worm Snax, BBQ Flavor

Elizabeth Bluemle - March 11, 2016

Several years ago at a BookExpo convention, I noticed two people dressed in khakis, navigating the aisles to deliver a magnificent Mayan king figure to their elaborate, jungled booth. They turned out to be a couple from Vermont, Jon and Pam Voelkel, promoting their new book, Middleworld. Now, nine years later, they have four books in the Jaguar Stones series and give one of the liveliest, most fun and informative author presentations on the circuit, jam-packed with information about Mayan culture and enthusiasm for their subject. IMG_6270
Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to be enthusiastic about the Mayans. Except for their mealworm snacks. When the Voelkels visited a local school this week, one of the students’ highlights at their visit was to see their teacher, Dana, down a mealworm just like the Mayans. Well, maybe not exactly like the Mayans. These mealworms are dried (and I think roasted) in a snack pack from California. Yes, I’m talking about the ever-popular lunch-box favorite, Larvets, The Original Worm Snax.
The box alone gives you the “Top Five Reasons to Enjoy Larvets.” (Enlarge the above photo for the fun facts.) And the nutritional information cracks me up. There’s 1 gram of fat, .2 g of carbs, and .5 g of protein — in the entire box. Worms — at least mealworms — are not the protein-packed wonders promised us by earnest outdoor guides. Harumph.
I know I should be focusing on the books — which are fabulous, full of adventure and absolutely chock-full of info about the Mayan world. The research behind Jon’s illustrations and Pam’s text is impeccable.

When kids asked about the glyphs and markings in the art on the book cover, the authors had to explain that everything inside the book is accurate, but that covers are designed by other folks and those marks are just decorative. I like the look of the Jaguar Stones logo; I do think — especially in a book meant to be part of the school curriculum — that publishers and art directors should be as careful with the representations on the book cover as the authors are with the content.
I see a lot of school visits, and it is a joy to watch audiences of kids riveted, laughing, and asking great questions. In addition to finding out all kinds of things about Mayan culture, hunting, fighting (their intent wasn’t to kill, the authors informed kids, but to capture the rival king, as in a game of chess), alphabets and counting systems, inventions and innovations. The students howled like howler monkeys, learned about the 13-year-old kid who cracked the last piece of the puzzle to decode the Mayan language, and mourned the burning and banning of Mayan books. It’s a rare presenter who can keep a group of kids spanning ages from kindergarten to seventh grade (!) totally engaged the entire time, and wanting more.
The school had done lots of pre-orders for the books, and even before the authors were finished packing up their presentation materials, kids were strewn about the library and meeting room, immersed in their books. I always know a school visit has gone well when families who hadn’t originally ordered on the form sent home come streaming in at 3 pm in search of the books.
Thanks, Voelkels, for bringing the joy of research to a little school in South Burlington!

2 thoughts on “Dried Worm Snax, BBQ Flavor

  1. Melissa Posten

    I’ve been fortunate enough to do a couple of sets of events with Jon and Pam, and they are two of the most entertaining and generous kids’ authors out there. If hard pressed, I might even say they give my favorite school presentation, ever. They are always having a great time, and everyone who gets to witness it does too. What a great article about them, Elizabeth!

  2. Carol B. Chittenden

    Never, ever, EVER have I seen kids so excited about authors and books as in the presentations the Voelkels did in our area. The auditorium/cafeteria noise levels probably raised ancient deities. And the sales weren’t half bad either! So glad the series is continuing.


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