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A West African Tale

adapted by Pat Cummings, illustrated by Pat Cummings

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8050-6476-1
Publisher: Henry Holt

Ananse is the tricked rather than the trickster in this addition to the pantheon of tales featuring the sneaky spider. When Ananse sees a notice announcing a contest to win the Chief’s daughter’s hand in marriage by guessing her name, he suspects she might be “a scrawny little thing,” but is tempted by the offer of half the Chief’s land and the prospect of becoming a chief himself. Off he goes to the village, where he meets up with Grasshopper, Cricket, and their other friends, including one even sneakier than Ananse himself: Lizard. Lizard plays to Ananse’s ego, offering to go to the Chief as Ananse’s messenger. Alert readers will know Lizard is up to no good; his hissing speech and the sneaky look in his half-lidded eyes are dead giveaways, except to self-centered Ananse. Lizard even convinces Ananse to tell him the Chief’s daughter’s name, lest the palace guards not admit him without it. Soon wedding preparations are in full swing; the Chief, unhappy as he is to marry his daughter to a lizard, is fair and awards him her hand, half his land, and the title of Chief. Incensed, Ananse vows to get back at Lizard someday; that is why to this day lizards appear to be nervous, constantly looking this way and that. The busy village, including villagers, Chief, insects, and animals all clad in bright, traditional African garb is portrayed in vibrant watercolor, gouache, and color pencil illustrations. Sleekly round, shiny black Ananse appears the perfect unctuous schemer, and those familiar with the legends surrounding him will enjoy his comeuppance. (Picture book. 6-9)