Ananse and the Lizard : A West African Tale
The avaricious arachnid returns in this trickster-gets-tricked tale from Ghana. Ananse the Spider and scheming Lizard both aim to marry the chief's daughter and thus acquire half his kingdom. Potential husbands, however, must correctly guess the daughter's name; anyone who guesses incorrectly will have his head "chopped off and fed to the buzzards!" Cummings (Angel Boy) sets the scene with ample descriptions and asides, and dialogue helps expedite the lengthy narrative. "I, Ananse the most wise... the most clever... I alone know the name of the Chief's daughter!... And soon, I will be so-o-o rich!" the greedy Ananse announces after fortuitously overhearing the princess addressed as Ahoafé. Mixed-media paintings energize the retelling with dramatic use of color and detail. (Even Ananse, a stylized spider with human expressions, is arrayed in distinctive, multicolored West African garb.) The vantage shifts easily from an elevated spider's-eye view of a bustling village scene to a close-up of the villagers' expressive faces. In an especially reptilian-feeling illustration, Lizard's thick green neck extends across a spread, his half-lidded eyes bulging and thin lips slyly smirking, as he procures Ahoafé's name from Ananse and claims her for himself. With Ananse vowing revenge, the concluding lines explain "why a lizard stretches its neck"—because Lizard is still on the lookout. This dynamic book will keep readers on their toes, too.