________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 3 . . . . September 19, 2014


There Was an Old Sailor.

Claire Saxby. Illustrated by Cassandra Allen.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77138-022-5.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Chasity Findlay & Gregory Bryan.

***½ /4



There was an old sailor
who swallowed a jelly

That wriggled and wriggled
and jiggled his belly.

He swallowed the jelly
to catch the krill.

I don't know why
He swallowed the krill–

It'll make him ill.

Kids Can Press' There Was an Old Sailor is a modern take on the classic children's rhyme There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. The story introduces readers to a sailor who has swallowed a krill and decides to remedy the problem in a very unusual and surprising way. The jolly sailor elects to swallow a jelly in an attempt to catch the krill. When this proves ineffective, the sailor continues to consume increasingly larger sea creatures to catch the preceding marine animals. This whimsical rhyme will have children gasping with laughter and disbelief as the determined sailor gulps down a plethora of marine life.

internal art      Claire Saxby's rhythmic verses will have children singing along and predicting the next line as the sailor tackles astonishingly large creatures. Despite the fact that the sailor's actions are outrageous, the story does, in fact, open the door for discussions on the food chain. This cheery story concludes with two pages of "Fishy Facts" which will allow children to learn interesting pieces of information about each of the sea creatures that appear in the story. We think this is a particularly nice touch which adds a factual learning experience about marine life to this amusing tale.

      Readers will enjoy artist Cassandra Allen's attractive, full-page and double-page spread illustrations. Her artwork was created using a combination of gouache and pencil. The simple, colourful designs effectively complement the cheerful feel of the text. Readers will be engaged in the story as they make connections between the rhymes and the large, striking illustrations. The lyrical verses coupled with the smooth lines and rounded edges of the artwork create a light-hearted experience for the reader. The swirling shape of such things as the waves, the jellyfish stingers, the squid tentacles, the coiled rope, and the fish scales all lend movement to the artwork, propelling the reader forward in a manner consistent with the rhythmic song-song flow of the text.

      Saxby and Allen are both Australians. This book was first released in their country in 2010. It was enthusiastically received and honoured with awards, including one selected by other children's book authors and illustrators who recognised the quality of Saxby and Allen's work.

      We believe that this story will be both appreciated and enjoyed by the target audience of children from age three to seven for several reasons. Each page starts off by repeating the previous page's lines while adding on a new verse detailing the jovial sailor's latest feat. This repetition is complemented on each page by a large, vibrant illustration showing the jolly sailor in the midst of swallowing the most recently mentioned creature. Children will begin to recognize new words and phrases as they memorize the infectious rhymes. In addition, readers will enjoy learning more about marine life while reading the "Fishy Facts" at the end of the book. There Was an Old Sailor is likely to becoming a cherished bed-time favourite.

Highly Recommended.

Chasity Findlay is a high school English teacher and a graduate student at the University of Manitoba.

Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, where he specialises in children's literature and literacy education.

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - September 19, 2014.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive