In Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, Eric A. Kimmel retells a folktale that originated in West Africa. This is just one of the many trickster tales about Anansi the Spider that are part of the oral storytelling tradition in West Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Tricksters like Anansi are mischievous characters that are often clever or foolish. Other well-known tricksters in folklore include Brer Rabbit and Coyote. In Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, Anansi comes across an unusual-looking, magical rock in the forest. He soon discovers that whenever someone says the magic words (“Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock”), the speaker falls down unconscious and wakes up an hour later. Always the trickster, Anansi decides to use his knowledge of the rock’s magic to fool all the other animals in the forest. One by one, Anansi leads the other animals to the rock and waits for them to say the magic words. While they are unconscious, Anansi goes back to their houses and steals their yams, bananas, and other food. However, Anansi gets a taste of his own medicine when he tries to trick Little Bush Deer. She has been quietly watching him fool the other animals and planning a way to teach him a lesson.
A storyteller himself, Kimmel has done an excellent job of infusing the text of Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock with the flavor of oral storytelling. The book’s first sentence reads, “Once upon a time Anansi the Spider was walking, walking, walking through the forest when something caught his eye.” The storyteller’s voice echoes in the repetition of the word “walking” and in the use of the stock phrase “once upon a time,” which signals to the listener that it’s time to settle in for a story. Tales from the oral storytelling tradition are often filled with repetition to aid in memorization, and this Anansi story is no exception. I’ve found that since Kimmel repeats many phrases throughout the story, listeners can easily follow along and participate in the reading experience. For example, when I share this book, I like to ask my audience to shout out “KPOM!” each time one of the animals falls down unconscious. The audience knows when to shout because every “KPOM!” is preceded by the magic words, “Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock.” Janet Stevens’s artwork features expressive animal faces and interesting textures. She has made the moss on the rock and the fur on the lion look soft, while the elephant is very wrinkly. Readers may enjoy searching for Little Bush Deer hidden in the background on many pages early in the story. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a fun read-aloud for school-age children, or for older preschoolers who are ready to listen to a longer story. Those who enjoy this book may be interested in Kimmel’s other Anansi picture books, including Anansi and the Talking Melon, Anansi and the Magic Stick, and Anansi Goes Fishing.
Check the WRL catalog for Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.