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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

4.6 8
by Pam Adams (Illustrator)

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Forty years after its first publication this much-loved Child's Play classic is as popular as ever. Ingenious die-cut holes bring this iconic nursery rhyme to life, and Pam Adams' fabulous illustrations lend humour and vibrancy to the proceedings. Bouncy images, innovative die cutting and favourite rhymes make Books with Holes a must for every child. Available in


Forty years after its first publication this much-loved Child's Play classic is as popular as ever. Ingenious die-cut holes bring this iconic nursery rhyme to life, and Pam Adams' fabulous illustrations lend humour and vibrancy to the proceedings. Bouncy images, innovative die cutting and favourite rhymes make Books with Holes a must for every child. Available in three formats, suitable for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and the nursery or classroom.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Taback's (Joseph Had a Little Overcoat) ingenious take on the cumulative tale, there's a die-cut hole where the old lady's stomach should be, so the audience can see where everything she swallows ends up. What's more, the hole grows bigger to accommodate the increasing gastro-populationby the tale's end, it's the size and shape of the horse that causes her demise. The digested wide-eyed animals float in a confetti-dusted space (which matches her dress), while everything about the elderly woman's exterior is equally askew, including the pupils in her eyes. Older children should get a kick out of the amusing asides liberally tucked into every spread. For example, there are bogus front page headlines ("LADY WOLFS DOWN DOG" screams one); a recipe for "Spider's Soup"; editorial comments by the menagerie and Taback himself ("Even the artist is crying," says a small caricature of Taback when she meets her gluttonous end); as well as factual information (various types of flies, birds or dogs are clearly labeled and paired with accurate pictures). The gleefully dizzy mood is intensified by Taback's use of black hand-lettered words set in blocks of bright colors laid atop orange or black backgrounds, and occasionally sprinkled with collage images (whose sources range from old field guides to the Wall Street Journal). Children of all ages will joyfully swallow this book whole. All ages. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
This song is a favorite with children, although, you might wonder why, perhaps it is the rollicking rhythm and the simple absurdity of it all. Taback takes the song to new heights in his interpretation. The die cut artwork lets kids look inside this unusual looking old lady's stomach to see what is going on. There is plenty to grab kids attention both in her stomach and in the asides and other goodies tucked within the page. It's a wild and wacky version that offers lots of colorful visual humor. Caldecott Honor book.
Children's Literature
Teachers often bemoan the loss of interest in nursery rhymes because they have traditionally been one of the earliest listening and learning experiences for children. They prepare youngsters for the notions of pattern and rhyme. They are often repetitive, which is both comforting and instructive. They are usually silly, adding an element of humor that makes reading fun. Now some of the favorite nursery rhymes and songs have become small board books with holes, each with a different illustrator. In this case, a small hole shows through the lady's stomach to the fly. On each page, the hole is bigger as the lady swallows bigger and bigger bugs—all with a sweet and unchanging smile on her face! On the left side of the page, the rhyme is written around each amoeba-shaped hole and right in the center is the word "why?" The colorful illustrations make this song even sillier and more absurd than with words alone. Part of the "Board Books with Holes" series. 2001, Child's Play, Ages 3 mo. to 3.
— Karen Leggett
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 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.--Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI
Kirkus Reviews
A die-cut hole approach to an old favorite that offers a view of the old lady's stomach and its expanding bestiary. The text has the look of a ransom note (a touch the devoured creatures might appreciate), but the jaunty colors—set skipping by a judicious use of black—keep the dark side of the poem at bay. Those accustomed to the streamlined version of this ditty won't know what to make of the comments scattered throughout the pages, little asides quipped by animals not yet swallowed; these rhyme with the "perhaps she'll die" line of the poem. Fortunately, these additions can be easily ignored or inflated according to taste, and full concentration given to the poem itself and the wild, eye-catching artwork: It is good fun to watch the old lady bulge and bloat, and the sheer corniness of the verse continues to be deeply gratifying.

Betty Bookmark - Betty
This is one of my favourite ever stories. The book uses pages with holes cut out so that you can see what is inside the old ladies stomach - yuck! Fabulous!
5 to 7 Educator
This much loved traditional story provides a wealth of activities and is very cleverly constructed so that the holes in the book work both backwards and forwards. The story is about a huge old lady who accidentally swallows a fly then swallows a great many animals one by one as a remedy, until she finally ingests one to many. Repetition and build up are strong features of the story. It also contains steady rhythm and rhyme, and children love the inevitability of the denouement.
This classic board book retells a childhood favourite and can be enjoyed by adults as well as toddlers. Young children love the brightly coloured pages with their ever growing holes. The various animals shown in the old lady’s belly are guaranteed to have your toddler giggling enthusiastically.

Product Details

Child's Play-International
Publication date:
Classic Books with Holes 8x8
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
3 - 6 Years

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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Adams, Pam a silly story retell that uses shapes and spiral text to keep the children's interest If you sing the story the kids will have a fun time listening and telling you the story back. Read this to kindergarten, first, and second grade
daycare_mamma More than 1 year ago
HOly book! This one is large like 2ft by 2 ft large. My daycare kids love this book and the holes in it make for fun for them. Im gonna reorder in smaller for there little hands as well
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 24 and I have a 10 month old son who I know will love this silly book just as much as I did. I just remember me laying in my bed reading it over and over again. It is a must have for all giddy little tikes out there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was read this book in third grade by my teacher Mrs. Wolfe, and ever since then i have thought of it. But when my daughter came home with it this week, I felt full of energy again to read it with her. This is a great book that teaches kids rhyme and reason, and is filled with humor, until the end. Buy this book for your kids!
Guest More than 1 year ago
OMG! This was lik my fav little kids book EVER!! I rcomed it to people with little kids or little siblings!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book keeps my nine month old daughter busy. She loves for me to read it to her, and she will also sit alone turning the pages, and putting her fingers in the holes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A little old lady opened her mouth and a fly flew in, but that's not the end of the story!She swallowed a horse and lived to tell her tale. This book was interesting, exciting, wild, and harliarous. Children love this story, and loved the pictures. Speaking as a kindergarten teacher, students have fun doing activities, and naming other animals to swallow.