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Childrens Literature
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.
Publishers Weekly
In Taback’s 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.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information
Reviews

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School Library Journal
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.
Review by Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI. Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gahan Wilson for The New York Times
Remember the old lady who swallowed practically everything? Well, she's still at it. When grown-ups wax nostalgic about childhood, it is surprising how seldom they think to bring up one of its most potent joys, grossing out -- but encouraging how enthusiastically they discuss it once it's mentioned.
Whose toes do not curl in rapturous recollection at the thought of gooey worms or green slime or the tiny, sickly feet of spiders coming in contact with one's tender young flesh? Who has grown so old as to be unable to recall the delicious shudders that ran through our entire small beings at exquisite visualizations of beringed human fingers found in hamburgers or eyeballs discovered staring up from bowls of soup?
Not you, I hope.
A towering masterwork in the field is the anonymous (of course!) folk song ''There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,'' and it is my happy duty to announce that it has just been reverently recelebrated by the appearance of [an excellent book which] presents the lyrics in their classic form as 'twas sung by your uncle (or maybe your aunt if she got a little tiddly) that fine, sunny picnic day it's still so easy to recall. Of course you remember how it starts:
''There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. / I don't know why she swallowed the fly. / Perhaps she'll die.''
Perfection. Absolute perfection. Especially if the pause was right between the second and third line and the eyebrows rose and your eyes and your aunt's or uncle's locked and widened in sync. The book is beautifully illustrated and lovingly designed by Simms Taback, and the publisher should be given enormous credit for the careful way it has produced the book and carried through his concept, which is a dandy.
The essential notion is that there is a hole punched through the page and the Old Lady every time she appears, to let you see inside her. This is, of course, a neat little gross-out in itself. If you flip her one way you see through it to the fly, spider, bird and so on and so on as she gulps them down. If you flop her the other way you see the growing accumulation of all the creatures the greedy old dear has eaten up to now. It's really a splendid notion, and I can't imagine how it could have been better carried out.
Needless to say, this converts the book into a marvelous toy and gives both the aunt or uncle or mother or father and the grossee being read to many wonderful chances to get inventive as, with growing horror, all present study in great detail the appalling progress of the damage wrought.
As if this were not enough fun, Taback has graciously crammed the back cover of the book with a widely varied gallery of flies that is worthy of at least one bedtime session all by itself.
Review by Gahan Wilson, Copyright 1997 The New York Times
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An old favorite as you've never seen it before...

Everyone knows the song about the old lady who swallowed a fly, a spider, a bird, and even worse, but who's ever seen what's going on inside the old lady's stomach? With his inventive die-cut artwork, Simms Taback, illustrator of The Road Builders gives young readers a rollicking, eye-popping version of the well-loved poem.

— from the Publisher

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