There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Book Poster Image
Clever, but more an art project than a kid-friendly book.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

May get kids thinking about art and how pieces can fit together to make a collage.

Positive Messages

No real messages here about not swallowing animals. Just silliness.

Violence & Scariness

Just a silly poem though the old woman swallows one increasingly larger animal after another until she swallows the horse...she dies of course.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a rendition of the old song most kids have heard, and enjoy singing. The woman dies in the end, and in this book a tab pulls the eyes closed to show it. That interactive playfulness might add to the silliness for some kids, but unsettle others.  The book itself is a little stiff and hard to manage. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Kid, 12 years old October 17, 2009

great book for younger and older kids

i havent read this book so long ago. I used to love reading it when i was little. If i find it i'll probably read it again.
Kid, 12 years old October 26, 2010

purr fect for kids but awsome for teens

luv it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What's the story?

This is one of many renditions of the silly kid's song about the old lady who first swallows a fly, and then to solve the problem, swallows increasingly larger animals ... until the horse ... and most of us know what happens next... "she died, of course."

Is it any good?

The presentation is what this book is about, and it's one that is clever and original though not really all that kid-friendly.  The familiar song is told in print that is a little hard to read, the illustrations are intricate but a little abstract, and the physical book is stiff and too complicated for young kids. However, older readers and adults might appreciate its artistry and enjoy sharing the silliness with their younger readers. Not really a Halloween story, but it certainly could add to the holiday fun!

The format and the illustrations of this book are clever, though perhaps not that kind of clever that will capture the interest of young kids.  Actually, with all its scrapbook kind of detail and unusual format, this book looks more like an art project than a book. A long and slender board book of sorts, it is done in rather drab browns and grays, and sports a somewhat scary-looking face. The book itself is stiffly set in the area of the old woman's stomach and, as you turn each page, you see a rather fanciful illustration of what she has just swallowed. In the end, as you turn the final page and she dies, a tab pulls her eyes closed. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families may enjoy singing the silly song together, and even adding their own verses. 

  • Readers will certainly want to talk about the illustrations and all the absurd details included in each one.  Have you ever seen a fly with a telescope, or a spider like the one the old lady swallowed? Why do you think the bird is dressed like a deputy sheriff, or why does the cow have wings? 

  • Do you think this song is funny, silly, or scary? Why? What about the cover, or the artwork? How do the colors make you feel? What about the old lady's face?

Book details

For kids who love Halloween and the offbeat

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