book review, Something To Do

Grandfather Tang’s Story: Storytelling with Tangrams

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In the mood for a unique diverse book that encourages readers to use paper to make their own story?

Me too! Storytelling with Tangrams is a fun and unique way to not only share a story, but get young minds working in imaginative ways!

Told in tangrams, the story of Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert, is about two fairy foxes. Originally published in 1990, Grandfather Tang’s Story will continue to delight new readers as the wonder of the tangram puzzle—and an endearing game between a grandfather and his granddaughter—reveals a story of magic, clever animals, and, ultimately, true friendship.

Storytelling with Tangrams | What is a Tangram?

“Drawing on a Chinese form of storytelling with seven shapes cut from a square of paper, Tompert recounts the tale of two fox fairies. Parker’s pen-and-watercolor art adds drama, while the tangram insets will motivate children to try their own versions.”The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Fox Tangram

Fairy foxes are ancient animals indeed, just like all fairies. Fairy foxes can change shape into anything. The two fairy foxes in our story constantly challenge each other into changing from one animal shape to another.

First a rabbit and then a squirrel.

Rabbit Tangram

Squirrel Tangram

After a couple of easy animal changes, they can be a hawk flying high in the sky.

Hawk Tangram

All was well as they continued to change from animals from land, sea, and sky. It was at the goose where problems arose.

Goose Tangram
Storytelling with Tangrams

Come read this Tangram tale and find out how they work together to have a happy ending. This story is good for any age. Even my 12 yr old loved it and we all had an absolute blast playing our Tangram game. Read below to find out how.

Storytelling with Tangrams | Something To Do:

This story lends itself nicely to a moment of Tangram play. Tangrams is a very ancient Chinese game using 7 shapes.

  • 2 large right triangles.
  • 1 medium right triangle.
  • 2 small right triangles.
  • 1 square
  • 1 parallelogram
Tangram activity
Storytelling with Tangrams

**We first read the story of Grandfather Tang’s Story and then the second time through we made the Tangrams as we read along.

Storytelling with Tangrams |What is the legend behind Tangrams?

A legend says: “Thousands and thousands of years ago, Yu(玉 龍), the Great Dragon, lived among humans, who venerated him because he was ‘yang’, gLegend of the Tangramood, and was always ready to help them. One day, the God of Thunder, jealous of the offerings the men had brought to Yu, in a burst of anger, crushed the sky with his hatchet. So, the sky fell on Earth in seven pieces black like coal. Light disappeared taking with it all existing things.
At first, Yu felt sad for the world and then felt nostalgic. So he decided to collect the seven black pieces of the sky and, in memory of the former world, began to reassemble several kinds of shapes: animals, plants and human beings that had disappeared. But after finishing each shape, its shadow left it and wandered the deserted world crying about its misfortune.
These complaints reached the ears of the God of Thunder who was touched and, to remedy the harm he had caused, he pulled from each shadow the body of a living being to repopulate the Earth. From that time on, our shadow faithfully follows every move we make and with the seven pieces of the sky, called Qi Qiao Ban (literally ‘seven boards of cunning’), everything on Earth can still be shaped”.

SourceAlmanacco del Matematico, © G. Sarcone, 2001
The Tangram Game

Tangram Game

We went to the library and checked out a Tanagram book. Making many of the animals and figures, we photographed them, made a photo-collage,and printed them onto card stock. Cutting them apart, we now have many Tangram cards.

  • Make one set of Tangram shapes for each person.
  • Mix the cards up and turn them face down.
  • Each person on their turn draws a card and constructs the Tangram.
  • See how fast you can do play the game.


7 thoughts on “Grandfather Tang’s Story: Storytelling with Tangrams

  1. Don’t you love it when an activity flows naturally from a book? I would love to try this out with my children. They have a set of those Super Mind Puzzles that works with the same premise, but it has more pieces and it provides cards with the shape they have to create with their pieces. Having only seven pieces and having to use your imagination to create shapes would be so much fun. Thanks for sharing this post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheers! 🙂

    1. Hi Renee, Thanks for stopping by. I so enjoyed participating in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I found some great new reads which have made their way to the never-ending reading list.
      I really like working with 7 tanagram pieces as this is the tradition and there are so many stories one can tell with them. It’s really fun.

  2. This book looks so interesting and clever. I am going to be looking for it next library trip. The stroy sounds great and what a great way to keep kids occupied and inspire their creativity making up their own stories using the same shapes. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Great post! I love this book and how the tangrams tell a story. It does make me want to play with tangrams! Thanks for sharing at the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Linky!

  4. My students always loved designed their own tangram creations after reading this story. We also adore The Warlord’s Puzzle which is another take on the “invention” of the tangram. Thanks for sharing this with #diversekidlit!

    1. Thanks Katie for the tip on the Warlord’s Puzzle. I’ll have to have a look at that one !!

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