Monday, July 18, 2016

[BOOK REVIEW] A Story, a Story by Gail E. Haley

Title:  A Story, a Story

Author:  Gail E. Haley

Genre: Africa / Folktale / Trickery / Storytelling
Year Published: 1970

Year Read:  1993

Publisher: Atheneum

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+  (Some Mischievous Behavior)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository

I have actually first watched “A Story, A Story” on a Weston Woods video (which was a children’s series I have grown up with for a many years) and I have enjoyed it ever since.  “A Story A Story” is a Caldecott Medal award winning book by Gail E. Haley and it details the adventures of Ananse, the Spider Man and his attempts at obtaining the stories from Nyame, the Sky God.  “A Story, A Story” is a clever book that fans of African folktales will definitely love!

This is the story about Ananse the Spider Man and the sky god named Nyame, who owns all the stories and keeps them in his golden box next to his royal stool.  One day, Ananse decided to visit the Sky God and asked him if he could buy his stories and Nyame told Ananse that in order to get his stories, he must capture Mmboro the hornet who-stings-like-fire, Osebo the leopard of-the-terrible-teeth, and Mmoatia the fairy whom-men-never-see.  So, Ananse sets out and tries to capture the three beings that Nyame wanted from him.

I have always loved reading different folktales from around the world and African folktales are my favorites!  Gail E. Haley has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this ancient African folktale about Ananse the Spider Man.  Gail E. Haley’s illustrations are truly creative and beautiful as the illustrations are woodcut and it gives the story a more traditional and creative vibe to the characters.  My favorite illustrations were of Mmoatia the fairy-whom-no-man-sees as she is small and she wears a green grass skirt and a colorful red and white blouse shirt that truly made her look majestic.  Gail E. Haley’s writing is cleverly creative as she incorporates various African sound effects like “yiridi, yiridi, yiridi” when Ananse was running through the jungle to make the characters’ movements have more meaning.  I also loved the different ways that Ananse tricks each creature in the forest, especially the scene where Ananse uses a gum baby doll to trick Mmoatia the fairy as it was a reminiscent of the traditional “Brer Rabbit” tales with Brer Rabbit being tricked by the tar baby.

Overall, “A Story, A Story” is a truly incredible tale for anyone who loves “Ananse” stories and also loves folktales that deal with tricksters.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the African phrases might confuse smaller children.

* 1970 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award Nominee for Picture Book
* 1971 Caldecott Medal



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