With its catchy cumulative cadence, this nautically themed remake of the classic children’s rhyme about that old woman who swallowed a fly is a natural for reading aloud.
The old sailor swallows a krill and then swallows a jelly to eat the krill, and he works his way up, with mounting absurdity, to the final swallow—a whale. The illustrations are adeptly rendered in gouache and pencil; the round modeling of the sailor juxtaposed against the flat, stylized sea is particularly effective. With each spacious double-page spread, the pictures show the sailor’s determination—at once farcical and disconcerting—to swallow the darn creatures. Depending on what strikes readers as funny, the illustrations may either delight or cause queasiness—or both. By the end, the sailor burps everything up, and they all continue on their merry ways. The final spread depicts the sea creatures previously swallowed in the story and gives a sentence or two of child-friendly factual information on each. Though this type of backmatter is a common-enough feature in picture books, here following farce with fact feels a little odd and may serve to deflate the fun rather than enhance it.
An aptly silly narrative and offbeat illustrations make this a successful new spin on an old classic. (Picture book. 3-7)