cover image Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale

Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illus. by Susy Pilgrim Waters. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-378-6

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.)