Author(s): Gail E. Haley
Illustrator/Photographer: Gail E. Haley
Publisher and Year: Aladdin Paperbacks in 1970
Number of Pages: 32
Genre: Fiction, Folklore
In this African tale, Ananse, or the spider man, decided one day that he wanted all the stories that the Sky God had in his golden box. Ananse had to first outsmart and capture a leopard, hornets, and a fairy to give to the Sky God in order to receive these stories. But after collecting these items for the Sky God, he received the golden box of stories and brought them back down to share with the people of earth, which is why African tales are now called spider stories.
I believe that this text could function as a window for readers who are not familiar with the African culture because it describes the reason that many African stories are called “Spider Stories,” it mentions a god or religious figure, and the illustrations show traditional African clothing and face paint. I also believe this could be an opportunity to introduce more cultures to the classroom, as well as, the chance to explore more traditional folklores and fables. This story could also function as a mirror for African American children to realize and understand the importance of their culture in a Westernized society. In the text, the Sky God is the character with all the stories and, therefore, all the power. I also thought that the stories were symbolic of knowledge, and Ananse wanted more knowledge but had to prove to the Sky God he was worthy of it first. The Sky God was also illustrated as larger and dressed more colorfully than all the other characters to represent his high status and power. The illustrations throughout the text are very colorful and contain lots of different patterns which help give the story a more energetic and tribal feel to it. I also believe that the images made the story more interesting and added to the overall message of the story.
Therefore, I would say that the text did a nice job of making the reader more aware of another culture and their thoughts and beliefs about why things are the way they are today. The original intent of this story was to help explain to others why African stories are often called “Spider Stories,” but in the process it also showed that someone can be successful even if they have all odds against them.