13 July 2011

That Tricky Spider

I have not read many folktales to Isaac. It is hard to find good age-appropriate adaptations of many of them, emphasis on the "good." I am not one who needs my folktales to be watered down versions of the original stories, in which all the characters miraculously survive being eaten by wolves or mauled by bears and no one ever dies. But I do need them to be readable, have appealing pictures and have as little Disney influence as possible.

Earlier this school year, Isaac's class was studying Africa for their international festival at school. I am not sure if he came home talking about Anansi stories or if I picked one up from the library, but we read a few of the folktales a few months ago and I added one to the library bag again last week.

Anansi is a common character in African folktales, often portrayed as a spider or a young man. He is a trickster and loves to cause trouble, though it usually comes back to bite him in the abdomen. You can find as many versions of Anansi stories as you can countries in Africa. One team whose adaptations we have particularly enjoyed is Eric Kimmel and Janet Stevens.

Kimmel and Stevens have successful careers individually, but together they have retold and illustrated, and even written their own, Anansi tales using accessible language and fun, colorful pictures. Isaac has really enjoyed them, especially Anansi and the Magic Stick. The latest one we read was Anansi's Party Time.

I will continue to hunt down good versions of traditional folktales to share with Isaac (and my students). It is important for children to hear these stories. They are so much a part of our culture and lexicon, that to not be familiar with them is to not be truly literate. But I will not compromise on quality. After all, I am reading them, too.


  1. We had Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel for an author visit one year. They were great!

  2. I love the stuff they do together. The book fair preview video that they were featured in a few years ago for Scholastic was fun to watch -- they are a god pair.