Let's Read! I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie

by Lois Ehlert

Read this Lesson in Spanish


  • Children will demonstrate portion sizes that are too large and ones that are “just right.”
  • Children will be able to describe being full.


  • Book: I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson. Puffin Books,
    New York, copyright, 1997. ISBN 0-14-056595-7. $6.99 in paperback. Sent with this lesson.
  • A 4-ounce and a 6-ounce cup.



Note about New Lesson Survey Forms for Texas WIC Staff Only: The first few times a new lesson is presented, staff and participants need to complete the survey forms attached at the end of this lesson. Please note that the Staff Survey Form is different from the Participant Survey Form. Only 10-20 participant surveys need to be completed. Please mail completed new lesson surveys to:

Delores Preece
Texas Department of Health
Bureau of Nutrition Services
1100 W. 49th Street
Austin, Texas 78756

TEACHING TIP: Children learn from repetition. They also learn from the rhymes and rhythms of poetry. This book has a repeating poem. As you read the story have the children repeat the poem with you. Besides being a learning tool, children love repeating poetry, and it actively involves them in the reading experience.


During this class you will read the book I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie to children on WIC. The book provides a humorous look at portion control for children and their parents.

Ask the children questions about the book such as:

  • Who is on the cover of the book?
  • What is the woman holding?
  • What do you think is happening in the picture?

Tell the children the name of the book and the names of its author and the illustrator.

Show the children the title page of the book. Ask them questions such as:

  • What is happening in the picture?
  • What is the woman making?
  • What foods are in the picture?
  • Have you ever had apple pie? Pumpkin pie?

Some examples of questions are provided below to give you an idea of how to discuss the book with children. In addition to questions about portion sizes and eating, you can ask the children to talk about other details or the emotions of people shown in the pictures. Add questions as you need them. Examples of topics to discuss are: the other family members, the cat, the mouse, and the details in each drawing.

Questions marked with asterisk are part of the lesson evaluation. Be sure to ask them as you read the book. You do not have to ask every question without an asterisk. Examples of questions to ask as you read include the following:

Page 1 of the story:
     Why is the woman at the door?
     What do you think she is going to do with the pie?

Page 2:
     Why does the mother look surprised in the next picture?
     What did the woman do?
     Do you know anyone who ate a whole pie like that?
    * How much of a pie do you usually eat?
     What is the cat doing?

Page 3:
     Is the woman drinking a lot of cider?
     What does your family do at Thanksgiving?
     Is there more food than usual on Thanksgiving day?
     What is cider?
     How do you drink your apple juice? How would you drink cider? (Answer: In a cup.)
    * How big is your cup?
     Would you drink as much as this woman?
     What is the baby doing?
     What is the cat doing?

Page 5:
    * Do you know anyone who eats a whole roll? Is that a usual size for a grownup woman to eat? (The
     answer for once in the book is yes.)

Page 6:
     Why do you think the woman is on the floor?
     Why do you think they say she might die? (Answers could be: She is eating too much or “die”
      rhymes in the poem.)

Pages 7 to 8:
     What happened to the squash?
     What would your family do with a whole squash? (Answer: Cook it, then everyone can eat it.)

Pages 9 to 12:
     What foods are in the salad?
     Is this a big salad?
     Has the woman eaten a lot of food so far? Do you think she can eat more?

Pages 13 to 15:
     How big is a turkey?
     Could you eat a turkey by yourself?
    *How do you feel when you eat too much?
     What is happening to the woman as she eats more and more? (Possible answers are that she
      feels bad or sick or that she is getting bigger and bigger.)
     Is anybody besides the woman eating Thanksgiving dinner? Do you think they like not eating?

Pages 16 to 19:
     Have you ever known anyone who ate a pot? Do you think that someone could really eat one?

Pages 20 to 28:
     Can you show me how big a ten-layer cake would be?
    *How big is the piece of cake you usually eat?
     Show me how big the woman is now.

Page 29:
     As you read the page that says “who swallowed some bread” ask, “what do you think is happening

Page 30:
     What is the woman doing when she says that she is full?
     Have you seen a Thanksgiving parade on TV?
     Do you think that someone would really float like a balloon after eating this much?


Children will demonstrate portions which are too large and portions that are appropriate sizes. They will also describe how they feel when they are full.

Go back to pictures of foods in the book such as the pie, the salad, or the turkey. Ask the children to show you how big each food is, then ask them to show you how much of it they would eat. For example, the children could hold out their arms to show how big the whole pie was, then they can use their hands to show how large a piece of pie they usually eat.

Ask the children how they know when they have eaten enough.


Many of us eat like the woman in the book. We are eating too much. The fast-food restaurants are super-sizing the foods they serve, and we often eat too much at home, too. We can change for the health of our children.

I have two pamphlets here. One is Tips for feeding 1- to 3-year-olds. The other is Tips for feeding 4- to 6 year-olds. Raise your hand if you have a 1- to 3-year-old, and I will give you a pamphlet for a child that age. Raise your hand if you have a 4- to 6-year-old, and I will give you that pamphlet. When you open the pamphlets, the first page of each pamphlet lists serving sizes for children.

Based on the serving size in your pamphlet, how much of a tortilla would you expect a 1- to 3-year-old to eat? How much would you expect a 4- to 6-year-old to eat?

How much juice would you expect a 1- to 3-year-old to drink at a meal or for a snack? (Show mothers the 4-ounce cup.) How much would you expect a 4- to 6-year–old to drink at a meal or snack? (Show mothers the 6-ounce cup.)

You can help your children learn how to eat healthy amounts. Serve them an amount of food that is appropriate for their age. Let them ask for more if they are still hungry. And do not force them to eat everything you serve. Some days they may not be hungry.

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Last updated January 5, 2011