Thursday, July 11, 2013
Grandma and the Great Gourd retold by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters
So Grandma sets off through the jungle to visit her daughter. On the way, she meets a fox who wants to eat her. Quick thinking Grandma tells the fox that she is so skinny, but if he waits for her to return from her daughter's house, she will be nice and plump since her daughter is such a good cook. The fox considers this a good idea and agrees to wait.
Next, Grandma meets a bear who wants to eat her. Grandma tells the tiger the same thing she told the fox and the tiger also agree to wait until her plumper return.
The whole thing is repeated when Grandma meets a tiger who wants to eat her and, just like the fox and the bear, the tiger agrees to wait.
Finally, Grandma arrives at her daughter's house and the two have a wonderful time visiting and talking, cooking and eating and yes, Grandma does get plumper just as she said she would. But all too soon, it is time for Grandma to return home through the jungle and the waiting animals who want to eat her.
Can she and her daughter come up with a plan to fool the fox, the bear and the tiger so they won't eat Grandma? Yes, they do and it involves using a giant gourd. But how?
This is a wonderfully colorful retelling of an old Bengali folktale that has lost none of the flavor of the original. Perhaps because it was so familiar and beloved by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose grandfather introduced her to a version of it when she was young.
Divakaruni uses repetition, a somewhat limited vocabulary and onomatopoeia, all devices that kids love and that make this a great read aloud book. The sounds are strictly Bengali, which may be something new to kids, but not something difficult to grasp. The context of the story makes the meaning of the sounds clear: Grandma's dogs don't go woof-woof, they go Gheu-gheu, her footsteps through the jungle aren't thump, thump, thump but rather khut-khut-khut.
The rich, vibrant illustrations by Susy Pilgrim Waters. She has given the words in the story added texture by using collage and a palette of color ranging from deep earth tones to lively pinks and reds and it all works wonderfully together.
Grandma and the Great Gourd is definitely one of my new favorite folktales and a welcomed addition to any multicultural bookshelf.
This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL