________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 24 . . . . February 27, 2015


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Puck.

Stella Partheniou Grasso. Illustrated by Scot Ritchie.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014.
32 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-2885-8.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

*** /4


There was an old lady who swallowed two gloves.
The trapper and blocker when down with a shove.
She swallowed the gloves to grab the mask.
She swallowed the mask to shield the goalie.
She swallowed the goalie to save the puck.
What rotten luck! She swallowed a puck. And now it’s stuck.


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Puck is a fun, contemporary and certainly Canadian take on the popular children’s nonsense song “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”. Just as occurs in the original, the remedy is far worse than the problem, and this time the poor old woman ingests the entire contents of a sports arena, fans and all, to chase down an errant rubber disk.

     The poem uses accurate hockey terms in a lively way, with no awkward rhymes. Stella Partheniou Grasso writes with humour and bounce, capturing a child’s sense of awe and delight as the old lady consumes her impossible medicine:

There was an old lady who swallowed a net.
How weird can she get? She swallowed a net!

     The funny illustrations by Scot Ritchie show the old lady’s travail; she vibrates and grimaces every time she opens her mouth to swallow even larger items. He shows the chaos from a variety of perspectives, from the top of the rink to the insides of the old woman’s innards, surrounded by her ribs and spinal column, sure to gross out and delight the younger set. Rounded lines and sweeping brush strokes show continual motion, and the pale watercolours, seemingly out of the lines and imperfect, complete the moving situation. The only weakness in the illustrations is that the old lady’s face is drawn slightly differently on the cover in comparison to the inside pages.

     This book will be a favourite with children at school and at home. There are many versions of this poem/song: I Know an Old Laddie by Jean Little, I Know an Old Teacher by Anne Bowen, the Chanukah-themed I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz, a Thanksgiving book for adults called I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson and many, many more. The theme extends to other cultures, including The Eye of the Needle by Betty Huffman in which a young boy finally swallows “the prize of the sea” – a whale, in order to satisfy his outsized hunger.

     This story is always funny and always welcome, and this sports-themed version is just what the coach, or the teacher, or the parent, ordered.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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