Summary: This story takes place in Sudan in an area called, “The Thirst Triangle”. It is based on a true story where a village gains a new water pump and completely abandons their old method for obtaining water. All abandon this method except for two- Fatima and her grandmother. At first, Fatima was overly excited about the new technology, but when people started making fun of her grandmother who was the only one taking care of her baobab tree, she joined in to help. The two continued to work on preserving their tree and getting their water supply from that, while the others mocked them and continued to take advantage of the water pump. One day, the pump stops working and the people realize that it will take a few days to get the part to fix it. They all seem to learn a lesson to continue to take care of their trees like they had in the past, while continuing to use the pump once it was fixed as well. They agreed that it was wise to “mix the old with the new,” and appreciate the new technology while also not letting go of tradition.
Illustrations: Illustrator Walter Lyon Krudop chose to include oil paintings throughout this story which add a special effect. The illustrations are beautifully detailed, and the colors are used so nicely together. Some illustrations remain on only one side of the page while others extend over to the other side. One especially beautifully crafted illustration is the one on the last page which is of Fatima staring up at the tree at sunset. You can easily see how the sun is reflecting on the dirt, and how the whole sky is a colorful assortment of orange, red, and yellow hues.
Review: My Great-Grandmother’s Gourd tells a great story about holding on to tradition and not being completely dependent on new technology.
Prior to reading this book, I thought it was going to be a great-grandmother sharing her stories with her great-granddaughter. I soon found out this was not true, and that the tree, referred to as the great-grandmother’s gourd, isn’t even the little girl’s or the grandmother’s great-grandmother’s, but that it has survived countless generations. I enjoyed this book for the lessons it shared and also for the inclusion of some Arabic words and their meanings. I found this very interesting and something that many American children may be unfamiliar with. I think this would be a great classroom story to read because many American students can connect with the idea of taking advantage of technology and the importance of tradition, but some of them may be unfamiliar with the Arabic culture. I think it’s even more interesting since it was based on a true story.
Kessler, C. (2000). My Great-Grandmother’s Gourd. New York: Orchard Books.