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Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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 Divakaruni's sharp, rhythmic retelling of this Bengali folktale is complimented perfectly by Susy Pilgrim Waters's brightly colored, captivating illustrations.

Grandma and the Great Gourd is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Little Red Riding Hood has only a wolf to contend with, but Grandma lives in India, where the forest hides a fox, a bear, and a tiger. Grandma talks the three predators out of eating her during her first trip (“I’ll be a lot fatter on my way back from my daughter’s house because she’s such a good cook”), but she has to innovate on her way back. Grandma rolls herself home in a giant gourd, singing cheerfully, until she meets the attentive fox: “One hundred and one times I’ve sneaked into villages to steal chickens, but I’ve never seen a singing gourd!” he exclaims. Although Divakaruni’s (The Conch Bearer) retelling starts slow, it soon gathers momentum. Like ’50s textile patterns, debut illustrator Waters’s silkscreenlike spreads render Grandma and the jungle creatures as two-dimensional cutouts; bold, stylized silhouettes of plant and tree motifs play off one another like dense jungle shadows. Grandma’s witty resourcefulness and the opportunity to compare cross-cultural story traditions make this a useful resource and a good readaloud. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Lilla Rogers Studio. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Colorful in more than one sense of the word." — Booklist

"This fresh new version will soon have young listeners and readers telling the story themselves." — Kirkus Reviews

"Clever and crafty, this well-told tale will be a fun addition to most collections." — School Library Journal

:Grandma’s witty resourcefulness and the opportunity to compare cross-cultural story traditions make this a useful resource and a good readaloud."— Publishers Weekly

"The acclaimed poet and novelist makes her picture-book debut with a Bengali folktale she remembers hearing from her grandmother in India." — The Horn Book

 "Eye-catching." — BCCB

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"Once upon a time," an old woman called Grandma lived in an Indian village near a dangerous jungle, protected by her loyal and helpful dogs, Kalu and Bhulu. One day, missing her daughter who lives on the other side of the jungle, Grandma decides it is time for a little adventure and packs for a visit. She leaves the dogs in charge of the garden and sets off. She soon meets a clever and hungry red fox, but she persuades him to put off eating her until she is plumper from her daughter's good cooking. She is equally persuasive with a hungry black bear and a sleek tiger. Arriving at her daughter's, Grandma enjoys the food. But she worries about her return home through the jungle—until she and her daughter, with the help of the dogs, make a happy ending. The tale is told through brief narrative text and visualized in vibrant, multicolored scenes with doll-like characters and fragments of patterns suggesting Indian fabrics. On the jacket/cover, Grandma all in white confronts the large tiger, black bear, and reddish fox; inside, abstract colors and shapes stimulate the emotions. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Once there was as little old woman who lived in India, contentedly keeping her vegetable patch. Everyone referred to her as Grandma. When her daughter sends her a letter asking her to visit, the woman decides to go but must cross a dangerous jungle. She leaves her trustworthy dogs to tend her garden and sets off on her journey. On the way she encounters a fox, a bear, and a tiger, each of whom wants to eat her. Using a bit of cunning, she convinces each animal to wait for her return trip when she will be much plumper after eating her daughter's food. They all agree. After a visit with her family, she and her daughter work together to devise a plan for her return trip home. Will Grandma's disguise as a plump gourd fool the hungry animals? Waters's expertise as a muralist shines through on the multilayered images. Contrasting textures and vibrant colors depict simple shapes with rhythmic patterns that appear stamped on the page. Clever and crafty, this well-told tale will be a fun addition to most collections.—Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools
Kirkus Reviews
Retelling a story from her childhood, well-known Bengali-American writer Divakaruni uses lively language, nonsense syllables and traditional rhythms. When Grandma sets out to visit her daughter and grandchildren, she must cross the jungle in between their villages. She leaves her faithful dogs home to tend her garden. Along the way, she meets a fox, a bear and a tiger that all want to eat her, but she persuades the predators that she will be fatter, plumper and juicier on her way back. She approaches her return journey with trepidation, but the inventive mother and daughter create a plan for a safe trip. The old woman is soon ensconced inside a giant, hollowed-out gourd. When the daughter has sealed her in with stitches and rice glue, she starts the gourd rolling toward her mother's village. First the tiger and then the bear approach the gourd in hopes of finding something to eat. They are each fooled by the grandma singing out and asking for a push. At last, the crafty fox realizes the trick, but by then, Grandma is so close to home the dogs are able to rescue her. The storyteller's voice is augmented by frequent repetition and onomatopoeia, making this story a pleasure to read aloud. Intensely colored and patterned collages on glossy paper boldly advance the plot. This fresh new version will soon have young listeners and readers telling the story themselves. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596433786
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 275,494
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Divakaruni's first book in the Brotherhood of the Conch series, The Conch Bearer, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and a Booklist Editors' Choice. She currently lives in Texas.

Susy Pilgrim Waters is an illustrator, designer, and painter. Susy lives in Boston with her husband, Keith, their dog, Tillie, two cats, and two bunnies. They have two grown children.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Divakaruni:

"During graduate school, I used to work in the kitchen of the International House at the University of California, Berkeley. My favorite task was slicing Jell-O."

"I love Chinese food, but my family hates it. So when I'm on book tour I always eat Chinese!"

"I almost died on a pilgrimage trip to the Himalayas some years back -- but I got a good story out of it. The story is in The Unknown Errors of Our Lives -- let's see if readers can figure out which one it is!"

"Writing is so central to my life that it leaves little time/desire/need for other interests.. I do a good amount of work with domestic violence organizations -- I'm on the advisory board of Asians Against Domestic Violence in Houston. I feel very strongly about trying to eradicate domestic violence from our society."

"My favorite ways to unwind are to do yoga, read, and spend time with my family."

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    1. Hometown:
      Houston, Texas, and San Jose, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 29, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kolkata, India
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Kolkata University 1976; Ph.D. in English, University of California at Berkeley, 1984
    2. Website:

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