Thursday, March 12, 2009


April Fool's Day is just around the corner. Anyone up for a trickster tale?

ANANSI'S PARTY TIME by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Janet Stevens (Holiday House)
"What took you so long?"Anansi asked. "Where is your costume?"
"I didn't know it was a costume party," said Turtle.

"You know now. Go home and get a costume." Anansi slammed the door.

A little while later:

Knock, knock, knock! Turtle knocked on the door.
"Hippity-hop!" Turtle said when Anansi opened it. "Hippity hop! Guess what I am!"

"You're a silly-looking turtle pretending to be a bunny," Anansi said. "Where's your dish?"

"What dish?" asked Turtle.
"I told everyone to bring a dish."
"You didn't tell me," said Turtle.

"I just did. You need a dish. Go home and get one." Anansi slammed the door.

Tit for tat is the name of this party game as Anansi delivers the big payback for the deed documented in the earlier book by the same duo, ANANSI GOES FISHING. With friends like the legendary African trickster spider Anansi, who needs enemies? Even after all the shlepping back-and-forth, Turtle has the wherewithall to deliver some sweet come-uppance to his nemesis at a party all his own, held underwater. Anansi has to hold on to Crab in order to keep from floating to the surface, hard to do when trying to partake in refreshments, holding balloons, and playing charades. Through a twist of fate, both Crab and Anansi end up on the surface of the moon (can't you see them there if you look carefully?), setting the stage for the next big prank which is sure to be out of this world. Children love these silly folkloric stories in which things really happen, where characters are not always nice as they can be or as clever as they imagine, and where, hey, the other guy started it. What's up for discussion is who will ever finish it? At least we know that children are sure to finish this story, and look forward to the rest. Party on. (5 and up)

Also of interest:
Another lively animal story with folkloric influence.
FOO, THE FLYING FROG OF WASHTUB POND by Belle Yang (Candlewick) Foo is bigger than his friends Mao-Mao and Sue-Lin, and so is his ego, leading him to proclaim that he is the biggest animal in the whole wide world! When this boastful toady becomes so filled with hot air that the wind carries him away, he experiences some misadventures with predators that will dramatically change his perspective.

Blinking back a tear, Foo replied, "I learned that I am nothing but a very small frog in a very big world."
"Foo, you are the perfect size," said Mao-Mao, "for a frog."
"Yes, said Sue-Lin, "and you are the perfect size for a friend."

True to the title of the book, the gouache artwork is high-flying, introducing dream-like colors not found in the tired old crayon box, swirling and funny and strangely beautiful. Influenced by her own experiences in China, Taiwan, America and Japan, this is a tale about belonging and being unique at the same time. (4 and up)

On a personal note:
Much better than Anansi's party, I daresay, are the festivities going on this coming Monday, March 16th at 4:30 p.m. at the PlanetEsme Bookroom on the north side of Chicago. We will be featuring a visit by the legendary Rosemary Wells (!!!) celebrating her recent release LINCOLN AND HIS BOYS for intermediate readers. We're expecting a full house, but in the spirit of children's books, there's always room for one more. If you are in the 'hood and would like to attend, holler at my e-mail.

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esmé stuff at


Rachael said...

I would love to teach fables in a fun way. How did you create skits/plays for the kids to act out? Is there a good resource for this or do I need to just make it up?

Esme Raji Codell said...

You can certainly make up skits (I have a section on page 270 of HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD TO LOVE READING that includes a bibliography of Aesop's Fable books which might be helpful as a springboard), or you can use DRAMATIZING AESOP'S FABLES: CREATIVE SCRIPTS FOR THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM by Louise Thistle (out of print, I think, but available used and in libraries). Remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss! ;-) Good luck!

Rawley said...

I wish I lived nearby so I could attend the Rosemary Wells visit! My class loves LINCOLN AND HIS BOYS and meeting her in person would be such a thrill. Please post about it!!


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