Once upon a time, in a little village in India, there lived an old woman. Everyone in the village called her Grandma. One day, Grandma received a letter from her daughter, who lived on the other side of the jungle. “Please come and visit me,” said the letter. “I haven’t seen you in so long. I miss you.”
And so, Grandma begins a perilous journey to the far side of the jungle. Can she use her keen wit to escape the jungle animals and make it safely home?
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s sharp, rhythmic retelling of this Bengali folktale is complimented perfectly by Susy Pilgrim Waters’s brightly colored, captivating illustrations.
I was first introduced to this Bengali folktale thanks to the always incredible Jbrary, and their guest post from early literacy advocate Kate Davis. I’m so, so glad I decided to check it out at my local library, because this is a fantastic picture book that’s just perfectly suited to being read aloud with older children.
Like Little Red Riding Hood, Grandma has to use her wits to avoid being devoured by one of the many scary creatures in the forest. Not only must she safely make her way through the forest to visit her daughter, she must also make her way safely back home again, putting her in twice the danger, and calling for twice the cleverness.
Grandma is no slouch, though, and though she might appear weak and vulnerable, this little old lady has a few tricks up her sleeve! Children will delight in following Grandma as she outsmarts and outwits even the cleverest of hunters, and gives that mean old fox a lesson he won’t soon forget.
There are plenty of wonderful noises to be made when reading this aloud, like the “gheu-gheu” of the dogs, and the khut-khut-khut of Grandma’s shuffling gait through the forest.
Grandma is a protagonist that children will love to cheer for, and she’s a wonderful reinforcement of the belief that brains can triumph over brawn. Like a sweet Bengali Yoda, Grandma reminds readers not to judge a person’s abilities by their outward appearance – Grandma might be little, but she is no pushover, that’s for sure!
With brilliantly vibrant illustrations that pop right off the page, some great sound effects and crisp, effective repetition, and enough tension to keep listeners eagerly following along, Grandma and the Great Gourd is a great addition to your folk tale collection that introduces readers to a classic tale from another culture. Definitely consider adding this Grandma to your library!
Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale
Hardcover, 32 pages
March 3, 2013 : Roaring Brook Press