"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tales of Anansi the Spider: Picture Books

Anansi and the Magic Stick Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric A. Kimmel. Illus. by Janet Stevens, 2001.

All of the animals have fine gardens, but Anansi’s yard is a wreck. He is just too lazy to pretty it up. Fortunately for him, he discovers Hyena’s magic stick, which will do anything you request, if you remember the magic words. All goes well, until Anansi asks the stick to water his vegetable seeds…then falls asleep. Kimmel has loosely based this story on the Liberian tale The Magic Hoe.

Anansi and the Talking Melon Anansi and the Talking Melon retold by Eric A. Kimmel. Illus. by Janet Stevens, 1994.

Anansi the Spider can’t resist Elephant’s melon patch. But, having eaten his fill of the biggest, ripest melon, he finds that he’s too fat to get out of the rind again. When Elephant returns, Anansi has to use his wits quickly. What if the melon should speak to Elephant? And what if the resulting fuss went all the way to the king?

Anansi’s Party Time by Eric A. Kimmel. Illus. by Janet Stevens, 2008.

Anansi invites Turtle to a party! But, he won’t let Turtle in until he follows all of Anansi’s rules. Turtle has to keep going home for more things to bring. When he realizes that he has been tricked, he invites the naughty spider to a party at his underwater home. Everyone has a swell time, but by the end of the soiree, Anansi is almost over the moon!

Stevens’ art for the Anansi series is bright, cheerful and lots of fun. Anansi is a chubby black spider with black beady eyes, but even so is very expressive. Whether he is lying on his back stuffed full of melon, carrying off his stolen stick or wearing his kitty party costume, Anansi will make readers laugh. The other animals are wonderful, from an incensed gorilla king to a zebra accidentally painted bright pink to Turtle in his bubblegum colored bunny suit. The author and illustrator themselves have a cameo in Anansi and the Magic Stick as they are swept away by the flood, Kimmel in a polka dotted animal inner tube.

Anansi Finds a Fool by Verna Aardema. Illustrated by Bryna Waldman, 1992.

This is an Ashanti tale, retold from a story by Robert S. Rattray in Akan-Ashanti Folktales, 1930. Anansi decides to go into the fishing business, and find someone to trick into doing all the work so that he, Anansi can get all the fish. He is surprised when his clever friend Bonsu, seemingly unaware of Anansi’s plan, offers to help him. But Anansi should beware, because Bonsu knows just how to manipulate Anansi, and soon the tables are turned.

Watercolor art. In this story, Anansi, his wife Aso and their friends remain in their human forms.

Royal Drum: An Ashanti Tale Royal Drum: An Ashanti Tale retold by Mary Dixon Lake. Illus. by Carol O’Malia, 1996.

According to an introductory note, this Anansi story is from the Ashanti Tribe of Ghana. The spider is also called Kwaku Anansi, Nansii or Father Spider. In this tale, Anansi is a helper rather than a trickster.

The animals wish to come together more often, but how can they send an immediate message? Anansi comes up with the idea of a royal drum. All the animals love the idea and everyone works hard to make it so. Everyone, that is, except for Monkey. Can Anansi make sure that lazy Monkey gets his comeuppance?

This tale is told in rebus done on scratchboard. O’Malia’s oil paintings pack every inch of the pages with color. Anansi is a bright jewel of a spider in pink, purple and turquoise. This jungle is populated with a king lion, a hippo, an antelope, a jackal and more, who aren’t afraid to come together for a meeting. They are realistically drawn creatures, shown working and celebrating from daylight till starlight.

Ananse's Feast: An Ashanti Tale Ananse's Feast: An Ashanti Tale retold by Tololwa M. Mollel, Illus. by Andrew Glass, 1997.

During a barren time when others are without food, Ananse the Spider has cleverly stored away supplies from his farm. He is just about to feast when his friend Akye the Turtle appears at his door. Ananse is willing to share with his pal, if Akye will wash his hands. This kind invitation doesn’t work out as well as Akye hopes, but a few days later he has a chance to repay Ananse by inviting him for a meal at his home under the river. Tricksters will be tricked!

In an Author’s Note following the story, Mollel tells that Ananse has his own body of traditional tales. In Ghana, they are called Anansesem or “Spider Stories.”

The Ananse of Glass’ art is a brown and purple fat bodied spider with an anthropomorphized face, a long nose and short spiky hair on his head. Patient turtle wears a red cap. Both creatures have comical moments, such as when Ananse puts on his ceremonial robe and dives headfirst into the river or when turtle holds up his still-dirty hands for his friend’s inspection.

Much more to come!


reese said...

hi there! I'm glad i found your great blog. I'd like to ask you something if u don't mind.

You see, I'm actualy looking for children books with such "scary" illustrations like wolf (or fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding hood or birds in 'Chicken Little' or the duck in 'Peter & Wolf') or maybe just being pictured with a fat stomach. Did you come across of any such a picture book? Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Donell said...

Hi Reese,

I'd be happy to look into it for you. Do you need to know by a certain date?

reese said...

Thanks for your answer, Donell. No, there's no deadline, at least not in the near future. I've just been doing some research on a violence & scary illustrations in storybooks for children. In most cases, a wolf or a fox are those predators with a negative role, so right now I'm looking for books like:
- Three little pigs
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Henny Penny/ Chicken Little
- Boy who cried wolf
- Peter and the wolf
- Wolf & seven little kids

It can be any kind of book, old or new. English or any other language. And any kind of help would be much appreciated.