“There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” gets a down-home Texan transformation.
An exaggerated blockhead of a cowboy accidentally swallows a fire ant. His eyes bulge and cheeks puff wide—“The cowpoke panted, and his voice got higher. / ‘Yippie-ti-yay! My stomach’s on fire!’ ” He needs to fix this situation right quick. So what does he do? Why, swallow a spider, of course. But that spider (complete with eight eyes) wiggles and waggles inside him. And so he downs a string of Southwestern creatures—a snake, a roadrunner, an armadillo (shortened to “ ’dillo” for the rhythm’s sake), a boar and more. The poor cowpoke looks more bedraggled and desperate with each passing animal. But before the expected tragic end of the cumulative song can befall him, determination kicks in. He sets his 10-gallon hat firmly on his head and declares, “If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself.” In a twist sure to stop young readers in their tracks, the cowboy swallows his rope, his horse and…himself. Those animals stampede right out of his mouth. Warm, sun-baked hues and wide-mouthed gulping scenes amp up the lunacy. Alas, the rhythm takes some bumpy turns, so singing out loud requires practice.
It doesn’t outshine the original, but it’s a romping, regional retelling that introduces new animals to boot. (Picture book. 4-7)