It’s a strange rhyme about an old woman who first swallows a fly and then proceeds to swallow progressively bigger and bigger animals, always to catch the previous animal she swallowed.
By the time she swallows the horse, she’s dead, which is a very disturbing turn of events, if you think about it. Sure it’s a fairy tale tradition to murder and mayhem in the stories. Take Hansel and Gretel, for instance. Have you ever really wondered why a parent would read a story about kidnapping and cannibalism to a child at bedtime?
My understanding is that when these urban legends and myths were initially circulating, they served as cautionary tales to warn children of danger.
You could think of these as an old school public service announcement for children that warned them of the danger of trusting strangers, for instance. But, these days, we don’t need to be so graphic in our kids stories.
So, if you want to tell them a different, less macabre version of this story, read them “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves”, written by Lucille Colandro and illustrated by Jared Lee.
“There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves” is a book that is based on the classic kids song, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”, in that there is an old lady who walks around eating things that would surely wreak havoc on even a dog’s digestive tract. However, the old lady in this book isn’t trying to catch what went down before it; she’s simply eating to eat (I’ll be honest here, that’s what it sounds like me).
In this fall-themed book, she’s swallowing things like leaves (as the title suggests), clothes, a pumpkin, rope and even a scarecrow!
Since it’s such a silly tale anyway, the rascally children in my world who rarely come to a consensus, agreed on one thing: they loved it! And why shouldn’t they? It’s adorable! The story rhymes, just as “there was an old lady who swallowed a fly” does and lends the rhythm similar to the song.
The illustrations are bright and fun and tell just as much of the story as the words do. Each page repeats the things that she ate in the order that she ate them, making it a fun book for the kids to repeat back to you. I find it’s also great to help them develop their sequence and order “reflex” as I like to call it.
I have to commend Lucille Colandro for writing such a fun and energetic book that takes a rather disturbing nursery rhyme and makes it more bearable and appropriate for our kids.
Unlike classic fairy tales, and luckily for us, the old woman doesn’t die, allowing for us to enjoy a couple of prequels and five sequels that resound with the same theme.