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Monday, November 21, 2011

Storybooks from the 70s and 80s

Yesterday, browsing on Amazon, I came across the exact same edition of a book I had in around 1980. The book in question was There was an old lady who swallowed a fly by Pam Adams, first published in 1973. Of course, I promptly bought it for the modest price of 3.78 euros! But childhood nostalgia apart, I bought the book to use in the classroom. I loved the story as a young child, partly because the fact that an old lady swallows a horse is hilarious to a four-year-old, but also because the story has fantastic rhythm and rhyme.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird. How absurd she swallowed a bird! She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wriggled a wriggled and tickled inside her.
The story also contains a lot of repetition, (think along the lines of The Twelve Days of Christmas) always ending each verse with "perhaps she'll die". My mother, who used to read me the story, is tone deaf, but even she got the rhythm right!

Finding this book, however, got me thinking about other storybooks I loved as a child and whether they are still in print. Here is a list of books I read frequently in the early to mid 80s:

1. Paddington at the Seaside by Michael Bond
2. The Topsy and Tim series by Jean Adamson and Belinda Worsley (an eighties Charlie and Lola?)
3. My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards (I had one!)
4. Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr
5. The Secret Seven by Enid Blighton
6. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
7. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
8. The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
9. The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

These are the ones I can remember, but I'm sure there were many more. I loved anything by Enid Blyton including the Mallory Towers series (boarding schools sounded so exciting!). Most of these books were first published in the 60s and 70s ( the Blighton books in the 40s!) but most are still available in new prints or second-hand on Amazon. It just goes to show that a good book will never disappear.

The next few posts will be dedicated to children's storybooks, old and new, and how we can use them in the classroom.


  1. Hi Michelle. Reading this post really took me back to my childhood - I read ALL the same books as you!! I can really imagine an interesting class using 'There was an old lady who swallowed a fly' - brilliant for teaching animals with young learners. The students could invent actions for each part! I'll be interested to read your next few posts!

  2. Hi Cat,

    Thanks for visiting. The kids begged me to read them "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" yesterday when they saw the book! I just read it to them at the end but we'll certainly be doing other activities later on. I've got quite a few story books to inspire me for blogposts :)

  3. Hi Michelle,
    Loving reading through your blog. I teach preschool in Italy, so my students start at age 2.5! I use a lot of books with them. One of the best is Are You My Mother? I even use it with the primary school children when we do the simple present of the verb to be (great question and negative forms in there).
    I also use more modern books, like The Monkey Puzzle, A Dragon in a Wagon, Rumble in the Jungle, and Down in the Jungle...oh, and We All Go Travelling By. They love the stories!
    Thanks for your great blog! I'll be a regular follower from now on!

  4. Hi Jo,

    Thank you for stopping by! I am not familiar with the storybooks you mention but they sound like fun! I have some books with lovely illustrations by Oliver Jeffers and I also love the Charlie and Lola series. I keep meaning to write a post about these books!


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