A performance poet and storyteller tells this collection of six Ananse stories set in Ghana.
Tales of Ananse have entertained legions of listeners for years, primarily through the tradition of oral storytelling. Today’s readers are mostly aware of Ananse from single stories illustrated in picture-book formats. Of the six stories here, one is original, and one is the popular favorite, “Hot Beans in a Hat.” The others are generally less well known. There is authenticity in the teller’s voice, and he fuses a number of Ghanaian languages for the names of the characters. Western readers may find these a bit cumbersome—Aso Yaa, Ananse’s wife; his son, Ntikuma; Nana Oppong, the lord of the trees; Ketebo the leopard—and would do well to practice before reading aloud. The how-and-why stories have continuity, each leading to the next, with chapter endings addressing readers directly. The cover is inviting, but, unfortunately, the format is not, as the text is broken up with sparse black-and-white drawings that don’t enhance the tales. It does not replace the more appealing The Adventures of Spider, by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (1992).
Ananse’s cunning and trickery come through, but overall, the book will have limited appeal. (Folktales. 8-11)