CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1971
an African Tale retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley
Interests: folktales, Africa, animals, gods
Also by this author/illustrator: The Post Office Cat
A long time long ago there were no stories on earth, the Sky God Nyame kept them all in a great golden box by his throne. One day Ananse the Spider man climbs up his web to the sky to see about buying some stories. Nyame just laughs and gives him three impossible tasks: Ananse must capture the leopard-of-the-terrible-teeth, the hornet-who-stings-like-fire, and the fairy-whom-no-man-sees. Using his quick wits, Ananse succeeds in catching all three and presents them to the Sky God. Impressed, Nyame presents Ananse with the box of stories, which the man scatters to the four corners of the earth.
In an engaging introduction, written for children, the author explains that ‘Spider Stories’ from Africa are those which involve a small, weak person or animal outwitting and besting someone much more powerful. This is a common theme in folklore from all over the world, especially in many European fairy tales, and it’s no wonder that stories like this are so appealing to children.
“Twe, twe, twe,” chuckled the Sky God. “How can a weak old man like you, so small, so small, so small, pay my price?”
This is a very successful retelling of an old story, lively and entertaining, with a smattering of African words and a charming repetition of phrases for emphasis. The woodcut illustrations are wonderful, colourful and bold.