Sandhya Nankani, the founder of Literary Safari, the developer of the app under review, is also the co-founder of Diversity in Apps (DIA), soon to be known as KIDMAP–Kids Inclusive and Diverse Media Action Project. The group is “dedicated to highlighting best practices & research for the creation of inclusive, equitable, and diverse children’s media.” To learn more about them, read an interview with Nankani, sign up for their enewsletter, and follow them on Twitter (@joinkidmap).
Grandma’s Great Gourd (Literary Safari Inc., iOS, $1.99, Android, $0.99; PreS-Gr 2) is an interactive book app based on the South Asian trickster tale Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale (Roaring Brook, 2013) by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters. In the story, a woman decides to visit her daughter on the other side of a jungle. She leaves her trusty dogs to guard her home and sets off. On the way she encounters a hungry bear, a fox, and a tiger, and must convince each animal to let her pass; she’ll be much tastier after enjoying her daughter’s good cooking. The woman spends time at her daughter’s home and both she and viewers help the young woman plant, fertilize, and water crops. Grandma also eats.
When it comes time for her to return home, her daughter devises a plan to get her there safely. She hollows out gigantic gourd, puts the now-less-lean Grandma in it (with a snack) and gives her a good push to get the gourd rolling. Suffice it to say, the older woman makes it home with a bit of trickery and with the help of her loyal dogs. Different modes allow viewers to read or listen to the story, with or without music, sound effects, and highlighted text.
A gourd rolling game, a record your own voice, and “explore Grandma’s world” options round out the app. Lacking instructions, the STEM-inspired game may take some children time to get the best results as they catapult the gourd. The game was developed with input from science educators, and with a bit of practice kids will catch on. Exploring Grandma’s world allows users to learn more about the geography of the region and Bengali art and culture. Instructions (a step-by-step video) are given for making puffed rice stars, and there’s an colorful, animated (though somewhat oversimplified) tutorial on how to wrap a a sari. The “about wildlife” pages are a bit disappointing, as they primarily feature a few still photos. The section on art includes a live-action video with music accompaniment. Throughout the app the original music composed by Kamala Sankaram is superb. It features a range of instruments including a “flute, piano, tabla, chimes, drum kit, upright bass, marimba, rainstick, cowrie shells, maracas, [and a] tanpura.”
Overall, this is a vibrantly drawn, highly interactive app featuring strong female characters. It also offers a look at another culture, supported by a number of complementary extras. It should be a winner with young children. A guide for parents and educators is available online, as is a trailer.—Erin Silva, Youth & Teen Services Librarian, North Liberty Community Library, IA
For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.