Inch by Inch

May 20, 2017

Oh, yeah? Measure this, pal!


A bird finds an inchworm and is about to eat him, but the inchworm says, "Don't eat me! I'm an inchworm! I'm useful! I measure things!" So the bird says, "Measure my tail!" "Huh! Now I know how long my tail is!" And then kidnaps him to take to a bunch of other birds to have various parts of their bodies measured. Then one day, a nightingale says, "Measure my song!" And the inchworm is like, "I don't even know how to accomplish that." And the nightingale is like, "Measure my song or I'll eat you." And the inchworm is like, "Uh... you sing... I will... measure." And then while the nightingale sings, he just keeps measuring, off into the distance, to get away from the nightingale.

I think what the book is trying to say is, "If you have a useful ability, people will respect you for it," but with the combination of the birds repeatedly threatening to eat the inchworm if he doesn't comply, and the inchworm's skill being limited to measurement, which seems like it would be completely useless to a bird (and in fact to most things) (and also that inchworms don't actually measure things because they're not intelligent but whatever) it basically turns into, "People will threaten to kill you if you don't do what they say." And while that may be true in certain circumstances, I certainly hope it's not true in my child's daily life. There's a message and kind of a moral here that both break down due to presentation in an anthropomorphic universe. You start wondering why exactly the birds are eating something as intelligent as they are, and whether that wouldn't be cruel, and you get into questions that you really weren't planning to get into while reading your toddler a board book. At that point, I just go, "No thanks." Not a bad book, but not really a great book.


People will threaten to kill you if you don't entertain them.

Publication Year
  • 1960
Age Range
Age Range: 
Number of Pages
Number of Pages: 
Number of Words on Typical Page
Number of Words: 

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.