NEW TAKES ON A POPULAR TALE

When I was a kid, one of my all time favourite songs was There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. Who wouldn’t be mesmerised by a tale where someone actually swallows a horse?

In recent years The Old Woman’s story has been making a bit of a comeback, but in slightly different forms. There are now a number of great pictures books around with variations on this theme.

THERE WAS AN OLD SAILOR

Last year, Walker Books released There Was an Old Sailor, written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Cassandra Allen.

Claire and Cassandra’s book is a nautical take on the much-loved “Old Woman” rhyme, which not only makes it hilarious, but also gives it plenty of relevance in the classroom.

There was an old sailor

Who swallowed a krill

I don’t know why he swallowed the krill –

It’ll make him ill.

The Old Sailor devours a wide variety of sea creatures in ever increasing size and hilarity. The rollicking text is complimented by beautiful illustrations – each page is a masterpiece.

Kids will love the incongruity of this story, as well the surprise ending. There Was an Old Sailor is also a great tool for teachers wanting to talk about who and what lives in the sea. And there are fishy facts at the back of the book for readers to enjoy.

THERE WAS AN OLD BLOKE WHO SWALLOWED A CHOOK

Just this month, a new book on this theme was released from Scholastic.

There Was An Old Bloke Who Swallowed A Chook is from P.Crumble and Louis Shea, the team who created the popular There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Mozzie.

This book is an hilarious take on the classic nonsense “Old Woman” rhyme. Here’s another bloke with a bottomless belly, but this one isn’t partial to sea creatures.

His particular favourites are Australian animals so before the story ends, readers see a wombat, galah, possum, goanna and of course a chook swallowed by the old bloke with the insatiable appetite.

There was an old bloke who swallowed a chook

I don’t know why he swallowed that chook…

By cripes, that’s crook!

If you want to find out where his eating frenzy ends, you’ll have to read the book.

As well as the hilarious text, I loved the colourful illustrations in There Was An Old Bloke Who Swallowed A Chook. From the sight of the old bloke sitting on the power lines with the galahs to the improbable ending; the illustrations are graphic without being gruesome, and are very funny.

PICTURE BOOK FEST DAY 1- THERE WAS A TALENTED AUTHOR

This week we’re having a picture book fest at Kids’ Book Capers – we’re taking time to celebrate some great Australian picturebBooks and their creators.

Unfortunately, in a single week we can only cover a small selection of wonderful Australian picture books, but we’ll be delving into the minds, the lives and the inspirations of three popular picture book authors.

Melbourne’s, Claire Saxby is the author of four picture books but she hasn’t always been a writer. After leaving school, Claire became a podiatrist, but she soon realised that all she wanted to do was write. Claire says,

One of the things I liked most about podiatry was the stories people shared.

Today, Claire is talking to us about her latest picture book, There Was an Old Sailor, a seafaring version of the rhyme, ‘There Was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly”. The Old Sailor eats some seriously unpalatable seafood, but the nonsensical text and Cassandra Allen’s wonderful illustrations are bound to get young readers giggling.

Claire was inspired to write There Was an Old Sailor by  a storyteller friend  who bemoaned the lack of ocean-based cumulative stories and said someone should write one. So Claire thought she’d have a go!

There Was an Old Sailor was published this year, but Claire has been performing it in schools and libraries for  a long time. She says,

Kids like There Was an Old Sailor because it’s absurd! They enjoy the rhythm and repetition and generally are joining in the refrains by about half way through the book.

Cassandra Allen’s illustrations paint the Old Sailor with wonderful laughing eyes, a ‘robust’ frame and Popeye forearms. He’s substantial but never frightening. There’s nothing to dislike about him really, although perhaps he’s a tad greedy.

It’s no wonder that There Was an Old Sailor is proving to be very popular. The language and absurdity give it child appeal, it’s easy and fun for parents to read and it provides opportunities for teachers to talk about the ocean, food chains, fantastic fiction and more.

Claire says she really enjoyed thinking of crazy things for the Old Sailor to do.

The hardest thing was getting the rhyme and rhythm right, so that it could be read for the first time with ease. It took time and redraft after redraft to get it right.

I asked Claire if she had any consistent themes/symbols/locations in her writing.

I hadn’t been conscious of it, but ocean or water feature strongly in many of my stories. Actually in my non fiction too. I grew up by the sea and holidayed by the sea. Many of my stories are in or around water. Themes? I don’t consciously write to a theme. Sometimes I’ll identify the theme and strengthen the story around it, but that comes in the redrafting, not in the original drafts.

Claire has had more than 30 books published and There Was an Old Sailor is her fourth picture book. Her other picture books are Ebi’s Boat, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate and A Nest For Kora.

Teacher’s notes can be found for There Was an Old Sailor on Walker Books Australia website http://www.walkerbooks.com.au/statics/dyn/1266193594964/There-Was-An-Old-Sailor-Classroom-Ideas.pdf

On Wednesday, we’re talking to Queensland author, Trudie Trewin, author of I’ve Lost My Kisses and Wibbly Wobbly Street.

There Was an Old Sailor Who came to Kids’ Book Capers

Today, the old sailor from Claire Saxby and Cassandra Allen’s lively new picture book, There Was An Old Sailor is visiting Kid’s Book Capers.

This man will eat just about anything – and he’s here to tell us how and why:

Old Sailor, in this book you swallowed a krill. Eww! What made you do that?

It leapt into my hand. What are the chances? It caught in my fingers. What else could I do? I ate it.

Sounds a bit fishy to me. Did swallowing the krill make you ill?

Not exactly, just left me with an unfinished feeling, that sort of ‘mmm that was tasty, but what else is there’ sort of feeling?

I know what you mean. I’m like that with chocolate.

Where/how did you first meet author Claire Saxby?

On a pier, planning my next voyage. She was planning her next book. There was an immediate connection.

Why did Claire decide to tell your story?

I guess girls are attracted to a man of mystery like me. Off the record, I think she might be clairvoyant. She seemed to always know what would happen next.

Do you really look like your picture in Claire and Cassandra’s book or has Cassandra deliberately made you younger and handsomer to disguise your identity?

Oh, no. I really am that gorgeous. Don’t you love my forearms? Strong as a whale I am. Cassandra captured my eyes exactly.  I look just like this. Don’t you want to hug me?

Umm…moving right along…what does it feel like to swallow a shark?

Rough-skinned critters, but worth it in the end. Cleaned off a few barnacles as it went down.

Gulp! Would you recommend swallowing sharks to others?

Don’t often get the chance to talk to anyone else – except the birds. Had a pet penguin once, but he didn’t talk much. Sorry, I digress. Would I recommend eating a shark? Heck yes!

How does it feel to have a book made about you?

Great! Posing for the pictures for Cassandra Allen wore me out, though. The jelly kept wriggling. The seal wanted a kiss. And the shark? Well, we’ve talked enough about the shark. I look for the book in every port. Briny barnacles, I’m proud of my story.

So you should be. It’s a great story. You’ve really got me hooked. Thanks for visiting us today old sailor. Bon Voyage.

To find out all about the other weird and wonderful things the old sailor swallowed you’ll have to read his book, There Was An Old Sailor

Please note that no creatures were harmed in conducting this interview.

Dee:-)