Book Review: Anansi and the Golden Pot

Written by Taiye Selasi, illustrated by Tinuke Fagborun, DK (Penguin Random House), 2022

We’re back! After a too-long delay, we’re back with another book review – and what a book! This gorgeous, golden re-working of the story of Anansi the trickster spider, is a joyful mix of the traditional and modern, the funny and the wise.

The story, told by Taiye Selasi (author of the acclaimed novel for adults, Ghana Must Go, 2013) follows a boy, nicknamed by his father, Anansi, and his meeting with the tricky little spider Anansi while on holiday visiting his nana in Ghana. The story combines the joy of childhood – all you can eat of your favourite food whenever you want it! – with some important lessons from the spider, and from Anansi the boy’s nana. With some humour too – ‘red-red is made of beans after all!’

The lessons are told gently and my now-five-year old daughter joins in: ‘you must share what you love,’ I say, ‘with those you love the most,’ she finishes for me. And the spider is both cute and dapper in hat, embroidered shirt and half-moon glasses – you have to look carefully, but I’ve found him on nearly every page.

The illustrations are vivid, vibrant with colour and bursting with character, as boy and spider spend the holiday together by the beach. In full disclosure, the illustrator, Tinu Fagborun, is the sister of one of my dearest friends – and I’m hoping to be able to interview her about her work illustrating this book for the blog – eek!

My daughter says her favourite picture is of Anansi the boy and his father on the plane to Ghana, leaving the grey city behind. It’s a tender moment; father and son’s eyes meet and Anansi’s face has the half-smile of a child listening to someone he loves. The pictures bring the family to life on the page, mother rushing to greet nana leaving father with the suitcases and a wry smile, mother taking baby in the sea, nana rubbing Anansi’s sore, full belly and helping him understand ‘Greed brings grief. Generosity brings joy.’

At the back, there’s a page showing stories spreading like a spider’s web with notes about the origins of the tales, and a page showing West African food to fill a magic pot. In a book with many memorable phrases, my favourite line is straight from the trickster spider himself ‘Nothing lasts so long as truth, nor travels quite so far.’

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