Children’s Book of the Week: Anansi books

Anansi and the Talking Melon and Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Janet Stevens

Ok, true confession time: I have thought about it long and hard, and I honestly don’t know if we love these books because they’re great, or because Tom, the children’s librarian at the local library, does such hilarious vaudeville interpretations of them for story times. Tom’s antics came first, but we’ve gotten the books out on our own, and they seem to stand up well in retelling. But still, having someone act out a book in a laugh-out-loud manner (repeatedly, in the case of Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock) will influence you.

But however it came about, we love these books now, and so I feel they’re worth recommending. Both feature African trickster spider Anansi trying to pull a fast one on his animal neighbors, mostly in the interest in stealing their food for his lazy self. In Anansi and the Talking Melon, Anansi eats his way into elephant’s best melon, and then, totally overstuffed, can’t get out. So he does the logical thing and pretends that it’s a talking melon. Sure, why not? He also decides that, if he’s going to be a talking melon, he might as well be a rude talking melon. Hilarity ensues.

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock has Anansi finding a magic rock in the forest that causes anyone who says, “Hey! What a strange moss-covered rock!” to pass out and wake up an hour later with a headache. Anansi sees this as a great opportunity to lure everyone else into the forest and then leave them unconscious while he swipes all their food.

In one of the books he gets away with his tricks, in another the tricks get turned around on him. Both might possibly teach your kids that It’s Fun to Be an Obnoxious Spider, though it’s clear Anansi isn’t exactly too wealthy in the friend department. I like that these books are kind of contemporary; while I do also appreciate those classic woodcut Ancient Tales of Africa kinds of books, these in particular could also be about Crazy Anansi from Cincinnati (they’re very American-looking, is maybe what I mean). At any rate, they’re very funny, and they lead to many elaborate Anansi plays on the boys’ part, and you know how a book shoots itself to the top of my list if the boys adopt its plot as part of their imaginative play.

These books are Lookybooks! Here’s Anansi and the Talking Melon and here’s Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.

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