Monday 3 December 2012

There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Star

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star by P. Crumble, illustrated by Louis Shea (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-330-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

‘There was an old lady who swallowed a star.’
Now if you think that’s bizarre, read on as she polishes of larger and larger items including an elf, fairy lights, and eventually, Santa Claus himself!

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly has captured the imagination of children for decades and I’m sure some adults can still recite this whole poem. Such a silly and humorous premise with an easy and familiar rhythm has spawned many picture book variations. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Star is a Christmas version.

Unfortunately the rhythm doesn’t quite work for me after the first two layers of the poem. It is uneven and awkward, hard to read aloud. I have read and enjoyed many other P. Crumble books, but the text in this one doesn’t flow.

The illustrations by Louis Shea are intense, and at times a shade on the scary side, but this is not a book for pre-schoolers and should be engrossing for primary students. I imagine they will respond with humour, rather than anxiety to images such as the elf who hides fearfully behind the table just before he is swallowed by the old lady.

And the detail in the illustrations is great. On the first page the old lady sits up in bed yawning, which is when the star drops into her mouth. On the wall is a framed photo of the old man and his chook from a previous book by this author and illustrator There Was an Old Man Who Swallowed a Chook. There are two cheeky mice that can be found on most pages doing something naughty. And I love the spines on the books in the book case: Captain Corelli’s Mandarin, Oliver Twisty, Pride and Prune Juice and many, many more.

It will catch the eye of children between the ages of 7 and 12 with its lenticular moving image cover. As you tilt the book in different directions, the Old Lady climbs to the top of the Christmas tree to eat the star. It will appeal to their sense of humour and the detail in the illustrations will entertain.

This is an enjoyable book, just don’t expect it to be an easy read aloud for pre-school children.

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