There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback

The folk poem that inspired this book and countless similar iterations has become so ubiquitous that most people must have heard or read at least one version of it — with some attempting to water down the provocative “perhaps she’ll die” refrain with something more politically correct.

For the record, the exuberant Caldecott Honor-winning There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback is true — perhaps even the truest — to the original poem’s spirit. Not only does it unapologetically embrace the crazy impossibility of the old lady’s dietary compulsions, but the bold and busy mixed-media collage artwork brilliantly adds to the poem’s wackiness — and OK, madness — with tongue-in-cheek details like newspaper/magazine headlines, a running commentary by the various animals (before they are gobbled up!) and other witty asides.

So while the old lady does come to an ignominious end (anyone would if they swallowed a horse too) you can’t help but smile at the artist’s unfettered creativity and sense of fun.

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