Publishing: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, New York, 1972
Awards: 1973 Caldecott Honor
Description: Anansi the spider has six sons that are all good sons. They all have to come to his aid and rescue him when he gets into trouble, so when he finds a prize-a great globe of light-he is not sure which son should be rewarded. He gives it to the god of all things, Nyame, and when she sees them arguing over it, she puts it in the sky. It is still there-the moon. The illustrations are bold and geometric, almost tribal.
Programming: Have students point out Ghana on the map. Do a little bit of outside research about the Ashanti people and how they live before reading the story. Read other folktales, especially those that explain why something is the way it is, such as Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears. Compare and contrast the tales.
Publishing: Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1986
Awards: 1987 Caldecott Honor
Description: A little girl is told the story of why the men live in square houses in her village and the women live separately in round houses. According to the girl’s grandmother, the people used to live in any kind of house they wanted, until Mother Naka (the volcano nearby) erupted to show her anger, and the only houses left from the destruction were one round and one square. The people took it as a sign and the chief told the women to go stay in the round house and the men in the square one, and it has been that way ever since, with both sides coming together for dinner.
Programming: This has a lot of really great scenes and explanation about the culture of the village (dinner procedures, order of respect, foods served, etc). Have students research this village or others and discuss how their practices are similar and different to ours and to other cultures. For example, respect is an important concept in many Chinese culture as well.
Publishing: Dial Books, New York, 1975
Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner
Description: As the title suggests, this folk tale explains why mosquitos buzz in people’s ears. According to the story, the mosquito told a nonsense lie that began a chain of events that eventually led the Mother Owl to not call the sun to come up in the morning. The animals that are all affected meet to sort out the confusion, but the mosquito hides and is never punished. However, it still has a guilty conscience and comes to ask if everyone is still angry.
Programming: The repetition and working backwards is a theme that I would draw upon with students. I would probably use cutouts of each of the animals and point to each one as they are brought up in the story. After reading I would have students review the chain of events and point out which animal caused which problem. For fun, students might even try to come up with their own explanation folk tale, such as “Why dogs howl at the moon” or “Why bees buzz.”