Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ananse and the Lizard - Pat Cummings

A West African Tale
Henry Holt & Co., 2002
40 pages
Endpapers: Rust

Ananse is the trickster of West African folktales. Apparently Pat Cummings traveled to Ghana and Nigeria to find a tale to retell and illustrate. She came across this one after searching through many collections and listening to many tales. There are lots and lots and lots of tales about the devilish Ananse. In the evenings, people gather to exchange stories, and many stories of Ananse are told. This is one.

Ananse, in his travels, sees a poster that announces that the chief of a nearby village will marry off his daughter to anyone who can guess her name, which has never been spoken outside the palace walls. As Ananse hurries toward the village he meets Grasshopper, who invites him home. There he meets many of Grasshopper's friends including Lizard, who is just as much a trickster as Ananse! Ananse overhears the name as he's spying from the wall above the palace and is then tricked by Lizard into revealing the name. Ananse's a bit numb - he doesn't "get" it until it's too late and Lizard is married to the beautiful daughter.

The illustrations, edge of page to edge of page, are bright and wonderful. The text is in a bordered box somewhere on one of the two pages. Fun story, great illustrations, and a little bit of West African!

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