Weavers in Ghana all know the story of the remarkable spider that showed two enterprising weavers a brand new way to weave beautiful patterns into their cloth. These weavers, named Nana Koragu and Nana Ameyaw, are walking through the jungle one day on their way home to their Ashanti village, when they come across what seems like a "small miracle"--a spider web with a wondrously intricate design. Awestruck, the friends decide to bring this treasure home with them to study. Alas! The web collapses at their touch, and is ruined. But all is not lost. At Ameyaw's wife's suggestion, the weavers return the following day and watch as the amazing Master Web Weaver, a large yellow and black spider, spins her magic for their benefit. Inspired by their skillful teacher, Koragu and Ameyaw begin imitating the spider's weaving dance on their looms to create a new woven cloth called kente-nwen-ntoma
, worn to this day by kings and regular people alike.
Margaret Musgrove is the author of Ashanti to Zulu, which won the Caldecott Medal for illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon. Her knowledge of African traditions and stories stems from her many visits to West Africa over the years. Artist Julia Cairns lived in Africa for 10 years, working on landscape paintings in the Okavango Swamps in northern Botswana. Readers will be reluctant to tear their eyes away from her stunning illustrations. (Ages 5 to 9) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
Bursting with colors as vibrant as kente cloth, this picture book's brightly patterned endpapers quickly set the tone for Musgrove's (Ashanti to Zulu) artful retelling of an Ashanti tale. Here, she dips into the folklore of 17th-century Ghana to relate how two master weavers learn from a clever spider how to weave the beautiful cloth for which the region is famous. While hunting one night, Koragu and Ameyaw stumble upon a web in a banana tree. "Never before had either of them seen such a wondrous design!" Eager to study it more closely, the two men try to bring it home and inadvertently destroy the web. Ameyaw's wife counsels, "Though you cannot find the same web again, perhaps you can find the same weaver," and sure enough, they track down the spider, who shows them her weaving dance: "Dip! Twist. Turn and glide." The men then redesign their looms and imitate the spider's technique, with stunning results. Musgrove's lucid prose is as crisp as the designs on the weaver's cloth, while Cairns's (Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa) watercolors conjure a lush and verdant forest setting. The artist punctuates the cool greens of the leafy backdrop with dashes of red and yellow, and her flattened perspective and characters displayed largely in profile add a folk-art flair. An afterword explains more about the significance of kente cloth. Ages 4-up.
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