Review Blog

Mar 15 2010

There was an old sailor by Claire Saxby

cover image

Walker Books, 2010. ISBN: 97819215071.
Ages 3 and up. Recommended. This picture book, a re-working of the nursery rhyme song There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, uses the same patterns of rhyme, rhythm and repetition to engage the reader in this new version. Here, an old sailor swallows a krill which, of course, makes him ill! Children will know the original tale and be keen to predict what the sailor is likely to ingest next. With the end of the original text in the back of my mind as I read, the final pages seemed to provide a change of style and I found the ending to be different to that which was expected. Looking back, however, the rhymes continued and the ending worked. The final double page spread brought the animals together and gave some unexpected facts about the different sea creatures featured in the text.
Saxby's story is supported by Cassandra Allen's stylised gouache and pencil illustrations, portraying the stereotype of the crusty sailor and the movement of the sea. The pictures hold a certain appeal with their simplicity and it is likely children will choose to try and recreate the patterns of the ocean in their own art work.
This would be a good text for children to both contrast with the original and pattern their own stories around as well as providing a good 'hook' for teachers beginning a unit on food chains or studies of the ocean.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School

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