A great choice to introduce young readers to West Africa’s wonderful Anansesem storytelling tradition.


Kweku, nicknamed Anansi by his father, meets the famous trickster spider he’s named for.

Anansi, a young city-dwelling boy, flies overseas to Ghana with his parents and siblings to visit his grandmother. In Nana’s seaside community, Anansi climbs coconut trees, helps fishermen pull in their nets, and enjoys red-red (Ghanaian bean stew), his favorite food. One day, at the beach, Anansi meets the real Anansi the Spider, whom he’s heard so much about. The spider reveals to Anansi a golden pot that will magically fill itself with whatever the boy most desires if he utters a charm. When Anansi gives it a try, the pot immediately fills with red-red. The spider warns Anansi that “you must share what you love with those you love the most,” but the boy hides the pot and secretly binges on red-red for several days before learning a lesson about the importance of generosity. Selasi creatively reimagines the classic West African folktale of “Anansi and the Pot of Beans,” distinguishing this retelling from previous adaptations by putting a contemporary child at the center of the story. The characters have Ghanaian names, and both the text and illustrations include interesting cultural details—like the kaftans Nana wears and the Adinkra symbols scattered throughout the illustrations (the backmatter includes a symbol key)—making this a good experiential introduction to Ghanaian culture. Complementing the folklore-inspired text well is Fagborun’s brightly colored artwork that lends a folk-art sensibility.

A great choice to introduce young readers to West Africa’s wonderful Anansesem storytelling tradition. (author’s note, Ghanaian dishes) (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7440-4990-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.


Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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