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Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti

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Anansi the Spider is one of the great folk heroes of the world. He is a rogue, a mischief maker, and a wise, lovable creature who triumphs over larger foes.

In this traditional Ashanti tale, Anansi sets out on a long, difficult journey. Threatened by Fish and Falcon, he is saved from terrible fates by his sons. But which of his sons should Anansi reward? Calling upon Nyame, the God of All Things, Anansi solves his predicament in a touching and highly resourceful fashion.

In adapting this popular folktale, Gerald McDermott merges the old with the new, combining bold, rich color with traditional African design motifs and authentic Ashanti language rhythms. 
Anansi the Spider is a 1973 Caldecott Honor Book.

48 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

Gerald McDermott

50 books65 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Gerald McDermott is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and an expert on mythology. His work often combines bright colors and styles with ancient imagery.

He has created more than 25 books and animated films. His first book, Anansi the Spider, was awarded a Caldecott Honor, and he’s since won the Caldecott Medal for Arrow to the Sun and another Caldecott Honor.

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5 stars
3,069 (43%)
4 stars
2,161 (30%)
3 stars
1,397 (19%)
2 stars
310 (4%)
1 star
86 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 468 reviews
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.4k followers
March 6, 2021
[Book #35 for my grad school Children's Lit class]
Profile Image for DeeTimes' Nook.
2,227 reviews
November 17, 2019
Reread: Still my favorite trickster tale of Anansi, the spider!

Anansi is a spider who was portrayed as a human in this West African Ashanti folktale. This vividly illustrated book was a 1973 Caldecott Award winner that I have read time and time again. This folktale told of Anansi, his six sons (See Trouble, Road Builder, Game Skinner, River Drinker, Stone Thrower and Cushion and exactly how the moon came to exist in the world. Although creatively told, remember Anansi as he was a true trickster so don't be fooled by his humanized ways and memorable wit! His son were given those clever names for a reason!

Although this book was once recommended for children Pre-K though grades 1 & 2, I recommend it for all ages including adults if you're young at heart.

5 +++memorable stars
Profile Image for B. P. Rinehart.
747 reviews253 followers
June 23, 2016
As I was reading the novel Homegoing, there was one character that would periodically be referenced: Anansi. Anansi is a figure from Ashanti folk religion. He is the Ashanti trickster god (think Loki in Norse mythology and Son-Goku in Chinese folk religion).This is one of those mainstay books of my early school years. I would read many books featuring Anansi the Spider, but this book stands out on apart of its spellbinding cover. Though Anansi is usually the antagonist/trickster mentor in Ashanti folklore, here he is the protagonist in conflict. After stumbling in to a harrowing conflict while journeying, he is rescued by his sons. He finds a mysteriously large orb of light and he wants to gift it to one of his sons, but which one?

I have also found something I rarely find nowadays: the original animated video that went with this book. Most children's books from the 1960s on had these, but they rarely survived the transition from analogue to digital. Luckily some has uploaded the original video (created by the books author, no less) to YouTube. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1CIB...
October 27, 2018
I don't like spiders. I like it when the spider gets eaten by the fish.
Added at age 6: i likt this book because ol the spiders hafe pawrs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for LaDonna.
174 reviews2,452 followers
October 27, 2020
Is it wrong to say that the illustrations caught my attention? The colors and illustrations jumped off the page with every page turn. Gerald McDermott deserves applause for his retelling of this well-known fable. I do not think that anyone will regret reading Anansi the Spider: A Tale of the Ashanti .
Profile Image for Ronyell.
956 reviews319 followers
July 29, 2010
“Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti” is a Caldecott Honor Book from master storyteller Gerald McDermott and it is about how Anansi’s six sons try to save Anansi from all kinds of trouble he gets involved in. “Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti” may have a confusing sentence structure that younger children might not understand, but it is still a great book for people who are fans of Anansi the Spider.

Gerald McDermott has done a brilliant job at both illustrating and writing this story of Anansi and his sons. Gerald McDermott makes this story extremely exciting and intense at the same time as Anansi is put through all sorts of danger and his sons try everything to rescue him. Gerald McDermott thoroughly explains the importance of family in this book as Anansi’s sons use their special abilities to save their father and children will easily learn the message of this book about the importance of standing by your family’s side through tough situations and I also loved the way that this story is set up as the same plot structure as “The Fool and the Flying Ship” and “The Six Servants” as the sons also have special abilities that help the main character. Gerald McDermott’s illustrations are once again done in a sort of 1970s retro style as Anansi the Spider and his sons rarely have a clearly defined body shape as their legs are like block shaped sticks and Anansi has yellow round eyes and blue, triangle shaped eyebrows and a triangular orange mouth. The images that stood out the most were the images of Anansi’s sons as they have no expressions on their faces, but they have signs on their bodies that indicate their special abilities such as Road Builder having a large “X” on his body and Game Skinner having two scissors on his body.

Parents should know that the sentences in this book seem to be in fragments, meaning that a couple of articles such as “the” and “a” are missing from each sentence and also the sentences would start on one page and then continue on the next page without a period completing the sentence and that might confuse smaller children who are trying to learn how to read for the first time. Parents might want to discuss sentence structures to their children before they read them this book so that children would not be easily confused by the story.

“Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti” is a great story about the importance of family and children who love reading folktales about Anansi will easily love this book. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the confusing sentence structure will confuse smaller children.
1 review
September 19, 2012
A spectacular set of stories I discovered whilst volunteering as a teaching assistant at a north London school. It was used as part of an assembly put together by year 4 for Black History Month.
Anansi stories are part of an ancient mythology that is rooted in West African folklore and concerns the interaction between divine and semi divine beings; royalty, humans, animals, plants and seemingly inanimate objects. These stories have and continue to provide a moral foundation for the community in which these tales have originated.
Anansi is a spider, but in many tales he is recognised as a creature who is half man and half spider; his most distinct quality is that of a trickster. As the main character he often deceives and exploits his fellow creatures for his own benefit. In ‘Anansi and the Yam Hills’ he manages to deceive Brothers Turtle, Owl, Mongoose, Hare, Peenie-Wallie the firefly, and even the tough Bro' Scorpion, often robbing them of their basket of sweet ripe fruits. But Anansi’ adventures and situations also teach the readers a lesson in morals; ‘Tricksters will themselves be duped and humbled by another’ which happens in ‘Anansi and the Yam Hills’, whereby Anansi is tricked by the polite Mrs. Guinea Fowl. However selfish he is, Anansi’ antics provoke affectionate laughter, while his quick wits and mystic power inspire awe.
The real joy of discovery the Anansi tales was the manner in which it was presented by the year 4 class with the guidance of the class teacher. The class came up with an original poem summing up ‘Anansi the trickster’ and incorporating it with music and rap style used by Tinie Tempah (‘Pass out’) which gave it a very modern and electrifying feel. The tales really inspired the children so much that they were engrossed in their tasks of choreographing the poem, learning the routine, creating artwork and even writing the poem. There was voice modulation, audience participation and even some free style dance intertwined perfectly with the story. A never forgetting experience and an absolute crowd pleaser with shouts of once more!
Profile Image for Bryan Wilson.
Author 2 books4 followers
February 14, 2011
This delightful version of Anansi the spider comes from the Ashanti, a tribe of Ghana, and explains why the moon is in the sky. The story definitely has a very different rhythm than typical Western tales, with each of Anansi's sons playing integral roles in rescuing their father from peril. Perhaps the best thing about this book is the extraordinary collection of illustrations found within--with sharp edges and heavily-contrasted colors, each conjures playfulness and awe. Definitely a fun read for the younger set and a way to introduce students to the literature of Africa.
Profile Image for Mary Keller.
23 reviews
September 26, 2011
First off, the illustrations in this book are great! They are simple lines and shapes but seem so intricate and bright. The story is Anansi the spider and his six sons who all have a special talent. Each son helps their father in a difficult situation... the father cannot decide who is more deserving for a gift so he asks the all knowing spider who gives them the light in the sky (the moon). I like this story because it teaches the importance of helping and sticking by your family.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,798 reviews35 followers
August 26, 2019
A story about how we all have different talents. Did you know Anansi had 6 sons? Find out how the six of them use their various talents to save the day.
8 reviews
November 22, 2016
Anansi the Spider is a West African folk-tale that comes from the Ashanti people in the country of Ghana. Author, Gerald McDermott explains in the prologue that the Ashanti people have told this story, and many like it, for hundreds of years as a means of explaining why and how things have come to be.

In the book, Anansi, a spider with human like qualities, begins by naming each of his sons according to a specific ability each son possesses. He then goes off on a journey where he gets himself in trouble. His sons use their unique abilities in different ways to help rescue Anansi. Upon being rescued, Anansi proclaims he is going to reward the son who rescued him with a beautiful white light. However, since all of his sons worked to save him, he cannot pick one to receive the reward. Anansi then calls on the God of All Things to hold the light until he has decided who to give it to. However, the spider family argues, and the God of All Things is displeased by this and decided to put the light up in the sky forever. At the end of the book, it is explained that you can still see this white light in the sky at night.

This book offers many teaching opportunities in both literature and social studies instruction. Students are exposed to the idea that different cultures have a variety of ways to explain why things are the way they are in the world. Teachers can also use the story as a way to explain to students that each individual has unique abilities that they can use in special ways. Additionally, teachers can encourage students to think about the names and descriptions given to various characters and what they might tell the reader about that character.

The book also features unique illustrations that utilize bold colors and geometric shapes to mirror the traditional artwork of the Ashanti people, offering yet another talking point for teachers. Although simply written, this books rich quality leads itself to many uses with in an elementary school classroom.
Profile Image for Amairani Medina.
16 reviews
October 16, 2016
If you work with elementary students in the early grades, you know they're always asking, "Why? Where did it come from? What's this? What's That?" Their curiosity and their thoughts are always running a hundred miles per hour. The moment they ask where the sun comes from, this book would come in very handy.

Anansi the Spider is a great folk tale that describes how the sun came to exist. Anansi has six sons: see-trouble, river-drinker, stone-thrower, game-skinner, road-builder, and cushion. These sons later work together to help Anansi when he falls into a river after finding a bright ball on a trip. He promised to give the ball to whoever helped him, but since all his sons helped, he could not decide who to give it to. He asked the sky god Nyame to hold it for him, but Nyame put it high in the sky for all to see.

This book is a great folktale to use in the classroom because aside from using it to explain to the students how the sun came to be, it's a book rich in culture and in meaning. Not only do the students get exposed to a different culture, but they also see the universal theme of family in this story. It can be very relatable for them as well as make them think critically about a different culture's ideas.
Profile Image for Nicole Doerr.
30 reviews2 followers
April 13, 2012
Anasi the spider is a beautiful tale from the Ashanti people. This book written by Gerald McDermott is intended for preschool and school age children. It is a picture book and a folklore. It has received the Caldecott Honor. The story is about a spider who has six sons. All of the sons were named after the gift the had. Their names were See Trouble, Road Builder, River Drinker, Game Skinner, Stone Thrower, and Cushion. One day Anansi went out and got into some trouble. See trouble knew this and all the sons used their skilled to help their father. After helping him, Anansi Find a beautiful white light. It wants to give it to who helped he but he couldn't decided who deserved it more. So the God of All Things took it up in the sky for everyone to enjoy. I am Assuming it is now the moon. The illustrations in the book are different and creative. There is so much texture and contrast to keep the children intrigued. The colors are bright and cover the whole page. This story can be used in many ways. It could be used as a lesson about other cultures or be read just for entertainment purposes. Overall it is a wonderful book.
30 reviews
April 29, 2015
This is a children’s folklore book that won the Caldecott Honor Book award. This book is meant for children of the age four and through age seven. This book is about a spider who has a human life personality and has six sons. Each son has their own ability, one can see trouble which helps to save his father’s life when one day he goes on a journey and gets eaten by a fish. All the other sons use their individual ability to help their father and the family ends up happy and safe. I will give this book four stars out of five because I think that overall this children’s folklore book has great meaning to it, in that family should always be there for each other and work together. If these sons did not work together the story would not end in the same happy way it did. The pictures in this book are not great, but I believe it will still catch younger reader’s attention, along with the story itself. The characters in this book I think are good, I liked how each character had its own personality and specialty, which could show kids that even though they are not all the same they have something different that they can bring to the table.
Profile Image for Laura.
11 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2017
This book brings to life a folk-tale from the Ashanti people of Ghana, Africa. It follows a story of the folk-hero Anansi the Spider and his six sons to explain how the moon came to be in the night sky. The wording is simplistic and stylized, and while that makes it great for a young audience, it was the one problem I had with the book. The word choice and phrasing makes the book sound as if it was being told by one of the Ashanti people, but it is in fact authored by a white man from Detroit. While I believe this is partially a product of the time period, Anansi the Spider was first published in 1972, I still find it somewhat bothersome because there a so few children's books by authors of color, even fewer award winning children's books.

The illustrations are geometric, bright, and inviting with high contrast white text. The author referred to real-world artwork done by the Ashanti people to compose the illustrations. I feel like this book would be particularly good for pre-k to second grade (read aloud or independent), but could be used in higher grades to tie in other lessons focusing on Africa or mythology/folk-tales.
Profile Image for Janessa.
211 reviews13 followers
July 22, 2009
We have a little obsession with spiders at my house these days, and after reading several different reference books about spiders that the kids keep bringing home from the library, I picked out this one to read together. The kids instantly recognized that Anansi the Spider is written by the same author who created a book we own called Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest. McDermott's artwork is so unique, and captures so well the folk style of his storytelling, that it is unforgettable. All four of my kids were excited when we sat down and opened up the pages of Anansi, and none were disappointed. They were so intrigued by the sons of Anansi, and how each of them had a special talent or power. When Anansi fell into trouble, the kids tried to anticipate which of his sons would be able to help him. They were completely engrossed by the story. It was so fun to share together. It was one of those library finds that makes you feel like you discovered gold.
April 21, 2017
Anansi the Spider is an African Folktale from the Ashanti people of Ghana. The story is about a spider who has six sons, each with a special talent. One day when Anansi goes out for a walk and gets lost. He ends up getting into danger in more ways than one and each of his sons use their talents to save him in some way. Anansi decides that he wants to reward the son that saved him but has trouble deciding which one deserves the reward of the big bright ball. Which son is responsible for his safety?What will Anansi do?

This book could be used in Kindergarten through 3rd grade to learn about folklore and how folklore was used to explain occurrences in nature. This book could also be used to help students retell a story since it has clear events that are easy to understand. You could also tie this book into a social studies lessons if you are learning about other cultures and traditions.
Profile Image for Jenny.
2,691 reviews25 followers
October 12, 2015
I really, really liked the bright, bold geometric illustrations in this book. It feels like the inspiration to a really great art lesson...perhaps designing other African animals using geometric shapes or maybe something with block printing. I love the illustration of the white web with the children spiders on it. (There are some art projects I saw online withAnansi but none that are quite what I was hoping for...may have to play around with this.)

Fun porquoi tale of the Ashanti people explaining how the moon came to be in the sky. It includes a brief prologue much like an author's note that explains the origin of the story (but not how McDermott came to know the story, how he researched it, etc.)
October 11, 2016
Anansi The Spider is an african folklore story from the Ashanti tribe from west africa. Anansi the spider of the ashanti people had six sons. The story goes on as Anansi goes far away from home and gets in trouble and his six sons go to the rescue to help out. Anansi the spider and his six sons ran into more trouble trying to get home but they look for each other. In the end Anansi and his sons get home safe. While Anansi had difficulty giving his sons the prize of a light globe. Nyame is the god of all things decided to place the light globe up in the sky for all to see and will always stay there. I enjoyed reading the story as it's influenced by ashanti culture which I find beautiful. I found very interesting about Anansi the spider adventure throughout the story.
Profile Image for Jether.
3 reviews2 followers
May 10, 2019
I recall reading Anansi stories as a child growing up on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands convinced that spiders magically possessed the ability to speak and influence other animals. The tales were vivid and captivated my imagination. The incredibly wise and mischievous Anansi was a parable master. The tales encouraged the development of virtues in a distinguished, worldly fashion only Anansi could possess. When I became a mother, I purchased a copy of 'Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti' for my son Gabriel. Seeing the enjoyment that the quips of the African tales brought him was mesmerizing. Recently, my old friend Anansi visited me as a character on Showtime's American Gods...needless to say, it warmed my heart to see him spin his tales again.
Profile Image for Briana.
722 reviews
January 4, 2022
I loved this book as a kid so I'm glad that when rereading this I still enjoy it.
Profile Image for Rebeca Sanchez.
99 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2020
Anansi the Spider is one of the folktales told around the world. This is mainly a story told in African-American culture. Anansi is a rogue, mischief-maker, and a wise creature who triumphs over his enemies. In the traditional tale, Anansi sets out on a long journey that is difficult. When he's threatened by Fish and Falcon, he is saved from terrible fates by his own sons. Which son was Anansi going to give a reward? Upon calling the Nyame- God of All Things- Anansi solves his predicament in a touching and resourceful way. In this style, the popular folktale merges the old and new with the bold and rich colors of African cultures. With the traditional African design, motifs, and authentic Ashanti language rhythms.

This story, it's much different from the original tale and there are different ways that the African culture told the story. There are ways that the story is told, so the way that it may be read and narrated from how the story may be retold. I would have my students compare the stories seen with the differences of versions and how they're presented in each story and artwork.
Profile Image for Mollie Brandt.
21 reviews1 follower
February 4, 2018
This book falls under the category of traditional children's literature known as a folktale. I loved the use of bright colors and 'blockiness' of all the shapes, especially the spiders. This story does a great job of depicting and bringing old folklore to life in a way that kids would understand. A lot of folklore lives today because of its' success in passing it on through other people, and this story was successful in making it understandable and readable for all ages. Although I think this folktale was interpreted the best way without losing any of its intentions, the end may seem a little confusing to children for its' abruptness and the lack of a distinct explanation of what Anansi decides to do with the moon; Anansi and Nyame are described as arguing over which son to give the moon to, but in the end, they just leave it in the sky.
Profile Image for Cassandra L. Manna.
243 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2020
This book is a cute little story, that reads like an oral history. The art is beautiful and bright, reminding me of stunning patterns woven in Africa.

Rate Procedure:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - I loved the book so much I would reread it again and would recommend to a friend.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Thoroughly enjoyed the book, could not put it down, would recommend to a friend, but do not need to read again.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Probably a good book that I enjoyed but there was something about it I did not love (e.g. The writing style, the POV, etc.). I would only recommend to a friend if it was their "type" of book.
⭐️⭐️ - A book I have below average feelings for and it would not come with a recommendation from me but I would mention it in conversation if related to the book topic at issue.
⭐️ - I finished the book but I hated every second of it.
22 reviews
March 22, 2018
Text-to-Teaching Connection

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti is an African folklore about a daddy spider who wanders off and finds himself in a dangerous situation. Luckily, his six sons come to his rescue and Anansi returns home safely. This book is full of patterns that emulate those found within the African culture. I would use this book to teach my students about patterns and types of lines by providing various art material to create their African spider. The students will also be encouraged to name their spider and select a character trait that best fits their spider. Finally, each student will create an opinion writing explaining why they think their spider fits their selected character trait.
Profile Image for Faloni ©.
2,130 reviews5 followers
March 8, 2022
Kishies. Anyone? 💋😘
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
107 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2019
I liked this book. I think it would be a good book for firefighters to read. Anyone who wants to be a helper. - G, age 6

It was so brave. - R, age 3
Displaying 1 - 30 of 468 reviews

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