The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Anansi the Spider Man and Other Spider Tales - December 2013

Selected and annotated by Alice Mitchell


Aardema, Verna. Anansi does the Impossible!: An Ashanti Tale. Illus. by Lisa Desimini. Schwartz/Atheneum, 1997. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
Anansi is determined to win back all folktales from the Sky God who owns them. The Sky God asks a steep price for the tales: a live python, a real fairy, and forty-seven stinging hornets. Anansi attempts the impossible with the help of his wife, Aso, who hatches a plan to fulfill the Sky God’s requirement.

Arkhurst, Joyce Cooper. The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales. Illus. by Jerry Pinkey. Little, Brown & Company, 1964. 58p.
Arkhurst brings together six tales from Liberia and Ghana about Spider, a clever and mischievous creature who hates to work and loves to eat. These stories describe Spider’s antics as he tries to trick others into doing work for him, in tales such as ‘How Spider Got a Thin Waist’ and ‘How the World Got Wisdom.’ Pinkney’s sprightly illustrations switch between black and white to colored.

Badoe, Adwoa, ed. The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories. Illus. by Baba Wagué Diakité. Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2001. 64p. 5-9 yrs.
This collection of Ananse stories lends itself to a slightly older audience, as the tales are much longer. The ten stories collected here still focus on Ananse and his many faults but also include some of his virtues. Each tale has its own full-page illustration on polychrome glazed earthenware tiles, and black-and-white caricatures of Ananse decorate the following pages.

Berry, James. First Palm Trees: An Anancy Spiderman Story. Illus. by Greg Couch. Simon, 1997. 40p. Gr. 4-6.
The King offers a reward to whoever can create the world’s first palm trees. Anancy Spiderman hears of the large reward and immediately seeks to work with the Sky-God through the Sun-Spirit. The Sun-Spirit, however, knows that it takes true partnership for this type of task, and they soon share partnership with the Water-Spirit, the Earth-Spirit, and the Air-Spirit as well. This original tale of Anancy has illustrations of a much more human-looking Spiderman.

Berry, James. Spiderman Anancy. Holt, 1989. 119p. Gr. 5 up.
These multiple stories about Anancy, who is both man and spider, introduce readers to many additional animal characters, such as Bro Monkey and Bro Tiger. Berry has collected twenty stories about mischievous Anancy and his companions. They’re clearly for an older audience, with longer narratives told in paragraph format with few illustrations.

Hamilton, Virginia. A Ring of Tricksters: Animal Tales from America, the West Indies, and Africa. Illus. by Barry Moser. Blue Sky/Scholastic, 1997. 112p. Gr. 4-8.
Hamilton includes four spider stories in this wide-ranging collection, three of which are in the section of West Indian stories. The trickster Anansi steals eggs from Big Alligator, uses magic to escape from a tiger, and saves his mother from a tiger and parrot looking to steal food from her. These stories are counterpointed by beautiful watercolor illustrations.

Hovey, Kate. Arachne Speaks. Illus. by Blair Drawson. McElderry, 2001. 40p. Gr. 3-6.
Hovey deftly tells the story of how Arachne is turned into a spider in this interestingly illustrated tale. In the end, Arachne’s punishment does not diminish her vainglorious pride in her work. This adaptation stands out, as it is told in verse with rhyming couplets, alternating first person narration from Arachne in black font with occasional quotes by Athena in red italic font.

Kimmel, Eric A. Anansi and the Magic Stick. Illus. by Janet Stevens.Holiday House, 2001. 35p. 5-8 yrs.
A messy Anansi who does not want to be teased anymore steals a magic stick from Hyena that will clean up for him. While the stick is watering his garden, Anansi falls asleep. The stick waters the garden so much that there is a flood! After Hyena stops the magic stick from producing more water, the animals all enjoy the new lake.

Kimmel, Eric A. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock. Illus. by Janet Stevens. Holiday House, 1988. 32p. 4-7 yrs.
When walking through the jungle, Anansi happens upon a magical, moss-covered rock, and he knows exactly what to do with it. He quickly tricks various animals to say the magic words and faint so that he can steal their food. Little does Anansi know that the Little Bush Deer has been watching him pull his tricks and plans a trick of her own.

Kimmel, Eric A. Anansi and the Talking Melon. Illus. by Janet Stevens. Holiday House, 1994. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
Anansi is craving the melons that Elephant is growing in his garden. While Elephant is napping, Anansi gets inside the largest melon in the garden and eats until he is full and fat, becoming too big to fit through the hole he made. While he sits inside the melon waiting to become thin again, he decides to play a trick on Elephant.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World. Illus. by Bee Willey. McElderry, 1996. 130p. 7-12 yrs.
A West Indian myth, “Anansi and the Mind of God,” is included in this beautifully illustrated collection. God challenges Anansi to collect the three things closest to his heart, which Anansi should know if he is as close to God as he says. Anansi tricks God into telling him what to deliver. This tale is told in verse and is quite short, making it perfect for storytelling.

Musgrove, Margaret. The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth. Illus. by Julia Cairns. Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2001. 34p. 6-9 yrs.
Brothers Koragu and Ameyaw find a beautiful spider web while hunting in the forest, but are disappointed when they are unable to bring it back to their village with them. Ameyaw’s wife, Afiya, suggests that the brothers seek out the weaver of the web, a large yellow and black spider. Upon finding the spider, the men realize that the web is the spider’s home, and do not want to destroy it, and instead the spider teaches them a new designs to weave, what comes to be known as kente cloth.

Sherlock, Philip M. Anansi the Spider Man: Jamaican Folk Tales. Illus. by Marcia Brown. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1954. 112p.
In these folktales, Anansi is a man when things are going well, but a spider when he is in danger. Though originally West African in origin, these stories came with people as they were brought to Jamaica, which provides a different context for this large collection. Those versed in Anansi stories will find both familiar and new tales in this text.

Sherman, Josepha. Trickster Tales: Forty Folk Stories from Around the World. Illus. by David Boston. August House, 1996. 172p. Gr. 4-6.
The collection contains “Why Anansi Owns Every Story,” citing the Ashanti people of Ghana. Anansi collects the hornets, a python, and a leopard for Nyame, the Sky God, in order to buy all the stories from him. Alongside these other tales from around the world, readers can compare Anansi’s tenacious spirit and cleverness to those of other tricksters.

Spinelli, Eileen. Sophie’s Masterpiece. Illus. by Jane Dyer. Simon, 2001. 32p. 5-9 yrs.
Sophie the spider lives in Beekman’s Boardinghouse in secret, which allows her to spin beautiful webs. This original story contains soft illustrations that demonstrate Sophie’s artful nature with her webs. Sophie uses her skills to try to help the people at Beekman’s, but she keeps frightening them—until she has a chance to spin her masterpiece: a baby blanket of moonbeams.

Yolen, Jane, ed. Favorite Folktales from Around the World. Random House, 1986. 475p.
This anthology contains the Ashanti story “How Spider Obtained the Sky God’s Stories.” In a break from traditional versions of the tale, here the Sky God asks Kwaku Anansi for four objects in order to buy the stories, and Anansi even offers to throw in his mother, Nsia, a sixth child, for good measure. Anansi completes the Sky God’s tasks with help from his wife, Aso.

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