There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

Last updated Monday, July 6, 2009

Author: Pam Adams and Simms Taback
Illustrator: Pam Adams
Date of Publication: 1982
ISBN: 0859530213
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jul. 2009

Synopsis: From School Library Journal PreSchool-Grade 3. From cover to moral (never swallow a horse), this cleverly illustrated version of an old folk favorite will delight children. Each page is full of details and humorous asides, from the names of different types of birds, to a recipe for spider soup, to the rhyming asides from the spectating animals. As for the old lady, with her toothy grin and round bloodshot eyes, she looks wacky enough to go so far as to swallow a horse. A die-cut hole allows readers to see inside her belly, first the critters already devoured and, with the turn of the page, the new animal that will join the crowd in her ever-expanding stomach. The pattern of the lady's dress, with its patchwork of bright, torn colored paper pasted on black, is used as the background motif for the words. The text is handwritten on vivid strips of paper that are loosely placed on the patterned page, thus creating a lively interplay between the meaning of the words and their visual power. All in all, this illustrator provides an eye-catching, energy-filled interpretation that could easily become a classic in itself.

Note to readers:
•  Read the circular writing on each page. The repetition is fun for the children. On the second read through- try having the children rehearse the sing-songy ending "I don't know why she swallowed a fly. I think she'll die" with you.
•  On each page, the bottom corner features the animal that will be swallowed on the next page .(i.e. Page 1 has a spider in the corner). It may be fun to have kids identify this animal and guess whether the old lady will swallow it next. Ask questions like- why would she do this? Do spiders eat bugs?

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever accidentally swallowed something other than people food?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Can you remember all the animals the old lady swallowed?
•  What do you think would happen if you swallowed a fly? A spider? A cat? etc.
•  Did swallowing all those animals help or hurt the old lady? What does that tell us about swallowing things we aren't supposed to? (it might make them sick/die).

Craft ideas:
•  Have the kids draw their own old lady (or other character, or themselves) with a big stomach. Help them draw a couple circles, each inside of each other (like in the book). Have the kids pick an animal to draw in the smallest, center circle. In the circle next to that, have them draw an animal that would be capable of eating or is bigger than that first animal. You can help them by leading a discussion on what kinds of animals eat what and answering questions if they get confused. Have them continue this pattern until they reach the outside circle and the have created their own Old Lady. Having a creative food chain is fine. At the top, a volunteer can write "There Was an Old Lady who swallowed a (Animal in their Middle Center)".

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!