At one time, long, long ago"" Kwaku Ananse the spider began to delight Ashanti children with his triumphs and his disasters. Harold Courlander was his first (and best) American friend, but recent interest in Africa has resulted in other collections. Mrs. Appiah, English by birth but Ashanti by marriage, preserves the deliberate cadence and the gently ironic tone of the originals: her versions sound as good as they read. Some of the stories are newly collected, others are close variants, a few are repeats. The themes are familiar: the trickster successful or outwitted, and how and why it all began. It's a lively, interesting collection, marred only by a few instances of questionable judgment. (In the first story, Ananse carries a dead child on his back and sets him down, covered, among living children who exclaim ""he stinks"" and proceed to beat him; in another, the author states, ""Kwaku Ananse was as mean as he was clever and he hated the other animals."") Bold stylizations of typical Ashanti motifs in black and white combine with large, dark type to make a handsome book. The old rascal spider is caught in a home-spun web.