grandma and the great gourd

Grandma and the Great Gourd retold by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters

This picture book is a retelling of a Bengali folktale.  Grandma was invited by her daughter to visit her on the other side of the jungle.  Before Grandma traveled there, she left the responsibility for her garden and home with her two loyal dogs.  On her way across the jungle, Grandma met a series of hungry animals: a fox, a bear and a tiger.  To each, she explained that she is very thin now, but will be plumper when she returns from seeing her daughter, so they let her go.  Grandma had a good time at her daughter’s home, eating lots of food and visiting.  But eventually, she had to return home to her dogs and her garden.  But how was she to get back?  That’s where the giant gourds in her daughter’s garden came in, and you will just have to read the book to find out how.

Divakaruni has taken a traditional folktale and left it wonderfully traditional.  The story reads like an oral tradition, filled with repetition, small descriptions, and a story that just keeps on rolling forward like a gourd.  She includes noises in the story as well, the khash-khash of lizards slithering over dry leaves, the thup-thup-thup of elephants lumbering on forest paths, and the dhip-dhip of her heartbeat. 

Waters’ illustrations are lush and colorful.  She uses texture and pattern to create a jungle.  The colors range from earthy browns to deep oranges and hot pinks.  The cut paper collages have strong clean lines and add a perfect organic feel to the story.

A great choice for library folk tale collections, this is a story that reads aloud well and has just the right mix of repetition, sound and inventiveness.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.