There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

Book review by
Peter Lewis, Common Sense Media
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Book Poster Image
Madcap Caldecott Honor version of classic poem.

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

Of course the rhyme ends with "perhaps she'll die."


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's little story in this traditional poem, but it's wildly silly, and readers have an open invitation to rhyme along. The artwork, for all its goofiness, is mesmerizing.

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What's the story?

A madcap, Caldecott Honor-winning version of a classic folk poem. It features a superb die-cut page design, a crowd of verbal and visual details, and an old lady's belly that bloats and bloats as each new and progressively bigger creature goes down the hatch. Simms Taback's bizarre artwork is drenched in color.

Is it any good?

Simms Taback adds visual fuel to a folk poem already brimming with hilarity. While the poem stands on its own as a celebration of rhyme and tomfoolery, Taback captures the action in boldly colored cartoon illustrations that cover each page. Short rhymed comments from the animals about to be eaten are added as asides. The cut-out pages focus the reader's attention and carry the poem from page to page.

THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY appeals to a wide range of ages, though one 4-year-old called the book "creepy," perhaps because the old lady's eyes rotate wildly and independently in their sockets. Older readers will probably be content with one read-through, though the younger audience will demand repeat performances. No problem -- with this degree of busyness and action, the book never stales.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about traditional poems and songs. Parents can share some of their own childhood favorites.

Book details

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