CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 2 . . . . September 20, 2002
It is no wonder that tales featuring the lovable eight-legged trickster Anancy (aka "Anance" or "Ananci") turn up regularly in children's literature. Most are re-workings of stories which originated among the Ashanti people of Ghana; however Keens-Douglas' tale entitled Anancy and the Haunted House is an original one. As a first class storyteller, the author knows exactly how to produce a written text that mimics the oral tradition. Keens-Douglas describes his version of Anancy:
Anancy is a hero to all the little spiders, and so when they plan a late-night party down on the beach--a safe distance away from the Haunted House--they ask Anancy to join them. "And Anancy said OK, he would be there at half past eleven and to bring plenty of food. And so it was done."
The little spiders are terrified of the haunted house where rocks fall on the roof from out of nowhere, and, horror of horrors, a BIG rooster dances on the table every midnight. Naturally, brave Anancy volunteers to go into the house at midnight and show the giant rooster what it really means to dance! Sure enough, Anancy and the rooster meet, with a disastrous turn of events. The unexpected conclusion of the adventure will surprise and please young listeners, although more widely-read Anansi fans may find the ending a little too easy on that arrogant arachnid.
Stephane Jorisch is a gifted illustrator who has received many honours for previous picture books, including a Governor General's award in 1993, and two nominations for the Mr. Christie Book award. Demonstrating the same sly visual humour in Anancy and the Haunted House as he did in another Keen-Douglas book, The Trial of the Stone (2000) and As For the Princess? (2001), Jorisch's always bold and often wacky depictions of the characters and setting in this tale should tickle the fancy of readers young and old.
The style and length of this Anancy tale makes it perfect, either by itself, or as one of several selections chosen by a teachers or librarian, for story hour presentation.
Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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