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Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti

Anansi the Spider is one of the great folk heroes of the world. He is a rogue, a mischief maker, and a wise, lovable creature who triumphs over larger foes.

In this traditional Ashanti tale, Anansi sets out on a long, difficult journey. Threatened by Fish and Falcon, he is saved from terrible fates by his sons. But which of his sons should Anansi reward? Calling upon Nyame, the God of All Things, Anansi solves his predicament in a touching and highly resourceful fashion.

In adapting this popular folktale, Gerald McDermott merges the old with the new, combining bold, rich color with traditional African design motifs and authentic Ashanti language rhythms.

Anansi the Spider is a 1973 Caldecott Honor Book.

Anansi the Spider is a wise, funny, mischievous, and loveable folk hero who pops up in traditional Ashanti tales from Ghana, in West Africa. This story, retold and illustrated by Gerald McDermott, relates the tale of father Anansi and his six spider sons. When Anansi sets out on a dangerous journey and gets into all sorts of trouble, each son does one thing to help, and all their efforts together save their father. He finds a mysterious, beautiful globe of light in the forest, and decides to make it a gift of thanks. But which son should receive the prize? Even with the help of Nyame, the God of All Things, he can’t decide, so Nyame takes the great globe up into the sky, and that’s where it has stayed ever since–the moon, for all to see. This profound story reaches children of many ages; younger ones see it as an exciting rescue story, but older children are intrigued by the larger themes of cooperation and “the whole being more than its parts.”

Anansi the Spider, McDermott’s first book, received immediate acclaim and was named a Caldecott Honor Book. McDermott has retold and illustrated many other folktales and myths during his long career, including Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale, which received the Caldecott Medal, Musicians of the Sun, and a series of trickster folktales from around the world. He has a rare combination of skills, being both a gifted writer and a talented artist. His distinctive graphic style using bold shapes and brilliant colors is always striking, but is especially well suited to the story of Anansi, with traditional African motifs skillfully integrated throughout the art. This is a story that can be read over and over again! (Ages 4 to 9) –Marcie Bovetz

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  1. sethyed "sethyed" says

    Vibrant, vivid illustration and a wonderful tale The Anansi stories have been handed down through generations of Ashanti culture. This book is a wonderful, vibrant and vivid story for children of all ages. Born in Ghana I left at aged 3, leaving much of the Ghanaian culture behind. At aged 30 I can still remember a song about Anansi the spider, the only remnants left of my native tongue. I was given the Anansi book as a child, it captivated me, I read it over and over again, and it provided a connection to my past. At 16, I spent hours crafting a cushion embroidered an illustration from the book that was a childhood favorite. Sadly, the book was lost and I never thought I could get it again. Now, some 14 years since I last saw the book I can still visualize the pictures and hear the wonderful tale of Anansi the spider, his sons and the moon. I have just bought two copies, one for my niece and one for my two year old daughter. I absolutely cannot wait to read them again and again and pass this memorable story to a new generation.

  2. Arcturus70 "Arcturus70" says

    Anansi Makes Me Laugh… I am a big fan of the Anansi tales, and the spider’s adventures are delightful as well as thought-provoking. For edutainment (educational entertainment) and discussion, I include them in my high school / college level introduction to mythology / humanities survey courses. All ages can enjoy a clever trickster hero who possesses many human qualities, the good and bad–who makes us think about our own deeds and behavior.In Anansi The Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti, Gerald McDermott retells an Anansi story with warmth, cultural sensitivity, and bright, attention-seizing illustrations. Among the children’s books about Anansi, McDermott’s efforts stand in a unique place because the text is used sparingly and with great effect, conveying important events only and not burying key ideas in lavish descriptions or dialogues. In this book, the elaborate, geometric illustrations paint the “descriptions” that the text omits.Features that I like…The map in the opening that shows the continent of Africa and the country of Ghana. (I’m always happy to see a bit of geography dropped into stories, especially those designed for children.)The Prologue, which describes the importance of folklore, mythology, and legends. I especially appreciate this statement: “Folklore prepares man for adult life. It places him within his culture.”Rather than beginning the story with the familiar “Once upon a time…,” the author uses “Time was…” which is cool! :)Each of the spider sons in the story is unique in design, appearance, and talent, which makes him easy (and fun) to identify as the tale unfolds. The six sons are See Trouble, Road Builder, River Drinker, Game Skinner, Stone Thrower, and Cushions.The character of Anansi is rendered with an expressive personality and face while his sons’ faces are not shown–just their designs, bodies, and talents. Anansi’s face changes emotions based on his experiences, and this would be an excellent teaching element for very young children upon hearing / seeing the story.Themes & Talking Points the book offers:Counting, colors, shapes, animals, teamwork, family, intro to Africa [Very Young Children]Reading; Cause & Effect; Critical Thinking & Response; African Culture. How does Anansi get into and out of trouble? // Each spider is an individual with a specific skill or trait; each spider has a place in the family. What does this suggest about the culture of the Ashanti? // The rescue of Anansi is really a team effort by the sons, but who should get the reward? Does the ending solve this problem? [For children 5-12]Reading & Design; Symbolism; Critical Analysis; Author Intent; Culture. Why did the author / illustrator choose not to show the faces of the six sons in the story? How does this choice affect the story? How does Anansi’s face tell his story? What is the relationship between a son’s name and his unique design? In what instances is Anansi’s face NOT shown and why? What lessons are taught in this tale? What universal themes are present? Does this book deserve its “honor” designation? [For tweens through college students]

  3. Anonymous says

    We love Anansi! My 18 month old son loves the artwork in this book. There is a lot to talk about on each page. For the first time it seems that my son is following the story and not just dealing with one page at a time. He waits eagerly for the page when Anansi is swallowed by a fish (don’t worry it is not violent in any way!) Since there are 6 spider sons there are lots of opportunities for counting. My 18 month old can now count to 6.

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