How to Eat Fried Worms

by Thomas Rockwell

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What is the setting of the book How to Eat Fried Worms?

Quick answer:

How to Eat Fried Worms takes place in 1973. This can be determined from the fake doctor’s letter that Alan and Joe send, which is dated August 15, 1973.

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Thomas Rockwell’s novel How to Eat Fried Worms takes place in 1973, the same year that the novel was published. The year can be established from a fake letter that Alan and Joe write to try to convince Billy that worms are poisonous. This letter, which is supposedly from a doctor named McGrath, is presented in chapter 31 as an image of a typed letter; below the return address, the date is handwritten: “Midnight, August 15, 1973.”

Even without the letter, there are numerous contextual clues as well that clearly indicate that the book is set in the 1960s or 1970s. One such clue is the reference to Shea Stadium and the New York Mets baseball game that the boys attend and where Billy eats too many snacks. Shea Stadium was built in 1961, and the Mets began playing there in 1964.

Another dated reference is the cookbook that is consulted, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This work by Julia Child and two coauthors was published in two volumes: the first one came out in 1961, the second in 1970.

More generally, the excitement that Billy feels about getting a minibike is connected with the 1960s and 1970s, when this type of bicycle was at the height of its popularity.

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