Unbridled greed really puts the squeeze on the rotund trickster in this tale from Ghana.
The telling is a lively one, the illustrations dismal failures. As Anansi goes “walking, walking, walking. Woo!” he catches the scent of yams cooking in one village, chicken and rice in another, beans in a third, and other feasts. “Oh—I’m gon eat good today. Yes. Oh—I’m gon to eat good.” At each stop he ties a string around his waist and tells the villagers to pull when the food’s ready. Unfortunately, when all the strings are pulled at once, not only is Anansi unable to move in any direction, his waist gets squeezed down to the thinness that all spiders still exhibit. Arrington sandwiches her tale between wordy explanations and doesn’t offer a source note. But she uses repetition and cadence to lend her version a robust, distinctly oral character…and if the “Anansi Approved Recipes” for candied yams with marshmallows and for baked beans with barbecue sauce at the end aren’t exactly West African in origin, they’re still yummy. Allin, on the other hand, portrays Anansi with brown fur and anthropomorphic features, including a head and a neck. Moreover, perplexingly, all the villagers are cast as unclothed African animals living in stereotypical grass huts.
A good choice for telling, a poor one for showing. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-8)