Folktales can teach us a lot about cultures and traditions from around the world. What's more, they often contain positive moral messages that we can take away from.
If you're looking for folktales to read to your kids, one that I recently discovered and enjoyed is Grandma's Great Gourd. Originally a Bengali folktale, it's been made into an interactive book-app with words by best-selling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and illustrations by Susy Pilgrim Waters.
The Brave Grandma and the Great Gourd
The story goes like this: an old woman, whom everyone calls Grandma, lives with her two loyal dogs in a little village in India. One day, Grandma sets out alone to visit her daughter who lived in the village on the other side of the jungle. She encounters a fox, a bear, and a tiger that all want to eat her, but she persuades them to let her go with the promise that she will be plumper, juicier, and fatter on her way home.
When it's time for Grandma to return home, her daughter comes up with a plan: she seals Grandma inside a giant gourd from her garden. Then, she rolls the gourd through the forest. The gourd, with Grandma inside it, manages to get pass the tiger and the bear, but the fox sees through the ruse. Fortunately, Grandma is already close to her home, so she calls upon her dogs to save her.
Rich Reading Options, Educational Videos, and Mini Games
In Grandma's Great Gourd, you get four types of contents in a single download. The main content is of course the interactive story, which you access from the Read menu. Kids can choose to read the story by themselves or have it read to them by a narrator. Within the story, they can tap the illustrations to discover additional dialogs and other fun surprises.
The second kind of content is a physics-based mini game inspired by the story, called Roll. The goal of the game is to launch Grandma's gourd as far away as possible, by minding the speed and angle of the launch. Scores are rewarded based on the distance travelled by the gourd, and kids can unlock new gourds of different shapes and sizes by scoring a specific number of points.
Next, kids or grown-ups can create their own narration in the Record section. Following the app's instructions, they can add their own sound effects—such as the sound of dogs barking or the wind howling—to liven up the story.
The final type of content is educational videos. In the Explore section, kids can learn more about South Asian food, art, music, language, and clothing. The videos vary in depth; for example, the food video shows kids step-by-step instructions for making a traditional desert while the clothing video is a cartoon that describes a simplified process of putting on a sari. At the beginning of the section, kids also learn where Grandma lives by pointing out the location on the map.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while Grandma's Great Gourd is recommended for ages 3-8, there are parts of it that might not sit will with younger kids. In particular, they might not like it when the wild animals threaten to eat Grandma. There is no violence, though, and the story concludes without any deaths.
Overall, the app is kid-friendly. All text is set in a dyslexic-friendly font, and navigation is simple and intuitive. There are no third-party adverts, in-app purchases, or unsecured links. No Internet connection is needed to run the app or play the in-app videos, which means you can easily take the app with you while traveling.
Things I Like
Grandma's Great Gourd is an engaging book-app. The story is vibrant and fun to read, with lots of wordplay and onomatopoeia. It's also delightful to look at: the colorful collages really bring the story to life, as do the wonderful narration and soundtrack. More importantly, the app caters to emerging readers by including configurable reading modes and text highlighting.
Beyond the story, the app has great value for introducing kids to South Asian culture. The videos present various bits of information, from the wildlife of the Sundarbans forests to a kid-friendly recipe, though not all are as in-depth as I would like. Nevertheless, they are a nice, thoughtful detail.
One part of the app that I think could be made better is the game section. I like the concept, but the controls are clunky and the objectives not very interesting. If it were more like Angry Birds, with intuitive touch controls and different goals for each level, it would be more fun to play.
Grandma's Great Gourd combines a charming Bengali folktale, minis game, and short videos on South Asian culture. It's a very well-rounded app with great production value and excellent educational benefits. The story itself presents a positive message about staying level-headed in the face of danger and resourcefulness. Highly recommended!
App was provided for our honest review.
About Literary Safari
Literary Safari is a proud member of the interdisciplinary coalition Diversity in Apps/Children's Media Diversity Initiative which supports the creation of inclusive, equitable, and diverse children’s media.
Check out their other app:
In HangArt, kids play the classic word game alone or against a friend to learn and write 200 sight words. They then use the words they’ve won to record stories or draw their own pictures. Highly recommended for parents who are looking to supplement their child’s language learning.