There are many books based on the childhood classic song “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly,” but our favorite is illustrated by Simms Tabeck. The illustrations are dark (as in all black backgrounds and some morbid humor), but silly and a bit crazy, which captures the feeling of an old woman who would swallow so many strange things.
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The pages have cut-outs at her stomach, so that when you turn the page, it either shows the latest animal she ate or it shows all of the creatures jumbled up in her stomach. The illustrations have a folk art to them, black background with bright drawings. The artwork inspires lots of time studying each page. Definitely not a book to plan on speeding through right before bed! (Or am I the only one who does that?) It’s more the kind of book to sit and look through a few times.
This was one of Liam’s favorite books to read when he was young, and I think it was because of the comments of the animals who are not yet eaten. On one page, the dog responds to the refrain “Perhaps she’ll die” with “I hope it’s a lie.” Later, the cow responds to the refrain with “There’s a tear in my eye.”
The humor is on the dark side, but you might expect that, considering the subject matter. There are newspaper headlines like “Senior Swallows Cat” or “Whole Cow Devoured: Will Be Missed.” There’s even a “Missing” poster that says “Dog: Mixed Lab, Med Size, Very Friendly, Last Seen with Old Lady. REWARD!”
The book ends just as the song ends, with the old lady dying after eating a horse, but that hasn’t seemed to bother any of my children. Liam’s favorite line when he was young was at the end of the book when it says “Even the artist is crying” and “Moral : never swallow a horse.” All in all, this book is a funny take on this classic song.
Interested in buying this book? I’ve had a hard time find it at local bookstores, but it is on Amazon.
You can buy it here: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
It won’t cost you extra, but it helps us out. Thanks!