A Story, a Story

by Gail E. Haley

Other authorsGail E. Haley (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1970



Local notes

E Hal




Atheneum Books for Young Readers (1970), Edition: First Edition, 36 pages


Recounts how most African folk tales came to be called "Spider Stories."



Caldecott Medal (Medal Winner — 1971)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

36 p.; 10.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member ds119933
This is a story of how the “spider man”, Kwaku Ananse, gained his Spider Stories. The story starts out to say that there were no stories for the children to hear, all the stories belonged to the Sky God, Nyame. So Ananse goes to the Sky God to ask for stories, but the Sky God would not give
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Ananse the stories unless he could give him three things; Osebo, the leopard with terrible teeth, Mmboro the hornet who stings like fire and Mmoatia the fairy whom men never see. Ananse goes back to earth and captures Osebo, Mmboro, and Mmoatia and takes them to the Sky God who then gives Ananse stories to tell to all the children.

A Story A Story is an African tale that is retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley. The illustrations from woodcuts and they seem to bring the pictures to life. I wanted to read this book because I was born the same year A Story A Story won the Caldecott Medal. I find it fascinating to see the way books were written and illustrated then and compare to the ones of today. I also find that this story is similar to others I have read before. This is Just another way to connect one culture to another.

As extensions to A Story A Story, I would have my future students act out the story as a play. For older students, I would also send a letter to the parents explaining that the class was studying traditions and have them tell their child a story from their childhood or stories that are handed down from generation to generation. The students would then write the story and be able to retell it to the class. If I had a primary class, the students could draw pictures of what the Spider Man and Sky God looked like along with the leopard, fairy, and hornet or make a shadow box with the characters in it.
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LibraryThing member MeganLuke
An African folktale with text and illustrations that work together to tell the story. The illustrations effectively show Ananse weakness as an old man that causes the Sky God to make a deal with him. Ananse strength came from his mind. This story is well told and is a great example of a folktale.
LibraryThing member ErikSalvail
A Story, a Story by Gail E. Haley is the beautifully told and illustrated story of the original tale of how African folktales became known as spider stories. The 'Spider man' Ananse spins a ladder up to the Sky God to ask for his box of stories, and is told he may have them if he first brings 3
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special items. Ananse is happy to oblige the god, for until he succeeds there are no stories for man. I found this tale and the illustrations to be beautiful, a account of cultural history for all ages to share. Winner of the Caldecott Medal, this shall remain a classic tale of a classic tale for ages to come.
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LibraryThing member carebeargirlie5187
This story tells of the origin of spider stories. Ananse the spider man built a web to the sky and asked the Sky God for stories. Seeing that Ananse was old and feeble he agreed for a price. The Sky God asked for a leopard, hornets and a fairy. Using his mind Ananse is able to trick the creatures
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into captivity and carries them to the Sky God who in turn gives him the spider stories.

The illustrations in this book are great. I like the stories morale.

I would read this to a class along with the teaching that even a seemingly weak person can oversome their obsticles. This book would go along with a multi-cultural lesson as well.
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LibraryThing member pamcclak
This book retells how African stories came to be told from the spider man who bought stories from the Sky God. The illustrations are done in woodcut. Very colorful in story and illustrations.
LibraryThing member elpowers
A very interesting African tale with colorful pictures. Kids will love the images and the newness of some of the elements.
LibraryThing member RebeccaMichelet
This is an African story about Ananse, the "spider man," and how "spider stories" began. One day the Spider man wanted to buy stories from Nyame, “the Sky God.” After weaving a web up to the sky, he asked Nyame for his stories, but Nyame would only give them to Ananse for a price; Osebo the
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leopard, Mmboro the hornet, and Mmoatia the fairy. After he left, Ananse made traps, tricked, and captured each the leopard, hornet, and fairy. After paying the price for Nyame's stories, Nyame gave the stories to Ananse, and said they belonged to him and would be called Spider stories.
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LibraryThing member scote23
Caldecott Medal, 1971

I really like the wood-cut illustrations in this one too. The story of how we got stories, and also a story about Ananse.
LibraryThing member dukefan86
Since I appreciate and enjoy storytelling, I like reading this African tale about how stories were spread. The wood cut illustrations went well with the story, I thought. I almost gave this 4 stars, but it's not quite there for me. 3.5 stars would hit just about right.
LibraryThing member bmmander
An old man searches for objects the sky god requested, so he can get the box of stories for the children. As the story develops, we realize this man has a drive and passion to deliver stories to these children. This story shows strength, wisdom, and drive to achieve a goal.
LibraryThing member Phill242
Caldecott winner, 1971
An African tale retold, explaining about the Ananse stories and how they came to be.
LibraryThing member LauraWade
A story a story is written by Gail E. Haley. This story is about a man named Ananse who because of him we have sprider stories which are stories about someone who succeeds against all odds.

I really like this book and the idea of spider stories. I think this book is a great story and gives a great
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tale of overcoming.

I would read this book to my students because I think they would like the story and the pictures in it. I would have them write me a story or tale.
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LibraryThing member Jill.Haner
What I liked about the story was the cleverness of Ananse. He was very tricky, but sometimes in a way where I felt bad for the tricked. I don't normally approve of hornets, but that seemed mean to pour water on their home and then close them up into a little bottle. Also, maybe because of my
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African History class, I don't like that it is just an African tale. What tribe or country does it originate from. African is a big continent and there are many cultures within it. I think I would need to study more on what specific culture this comes from before I could read it in a class. I did really enjoy the artwork. I think it helped out the story that the only thing in detail were the characters or items in the story. The bright colors let the reader know this was a book for fun.
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LibraryThing member pyattlori
A Story A Story: This story was very interesting. The illustrations are so colorful and perfect. I really enjoyed this folktale. However, to use it in the classroom, I would have to learn so much background information to do this book justice. In my undergrad, I learned a little bit about the style
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of oral storytelling in many African traditions, but I would need to learn more about these Spider Stories.
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LibraryThing member bp0128bd
Caldecott winner, 1971
An African tale retold, explaining about the Ananse stories and how they came to be.
LibraryThing member jess_shalee
A story is a story that is retold from ancient Africa. The story was created because it was said that there were no stories for young children to read.
LibraryThing member abigail.shafer
I think i learned a lot about african spider stories and think this would be a good case study for young children to hear about another culture. The art fits the storys culture very well with the natural colors and earthy print style with smoth lines.
LibraryThing member CiaraLohman
A Story, A Story, is a children’s book about an African tale about how we got all the stories we have today. Once all the stories belonged to the Sky God. Ananse, the Spider-Man, wanted the stories to share with his people. The Sky God wanted three things for the price of the stories. Ananse was
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able to catch the three sly creatures by being even sneakier. He took them to the Sky God and was given the golden box of stories. When he returned to his village on earth and opened the box, the stories ran away to all parts of the world.
This book was very fascinating for me. I don’t think I was introduced to many stories like this as a child. I think is very important to learn about other cultures in the present and past. I want my children and children in my future classroom to know of all sorts of different cultures. This book gives an example of African culture and tells one of their folk stories.
Classroom extensions for this book:
1. After the teacher reads the story, the teacher would talk to the children about phrases used in the book to describe the three sly creatures. To encourage creative writing the students to will pick any animal and write their own creative/descriptive phrase to describe the animal.
2. After the teacher reads the book, she will ask the students about Ananse. What kind of person was he? How did he use his mind to capture the creatures? They can have a class discussion about him.
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LibraryThing member Melody.Ryan
Ananse, the spider god wanted to buy the Shy God's stories that he kept in a hidden golden box. He spun a web up to the sky where the Sky God requested a price of three different items; tiger, hornet and fairy. Ananase climbed down his web from the sky and used trickery and cleaverness to capture
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the three things the Sky God wanted. Ananse spun another web to get himself and the three objects up to the Sky God. The God paid Ananse in stories but also called them spider stories to give thanks to Ananse, the Spider guy. Ananse opened the box and allowed the stories to spread all over the world.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
I can't believe I never read this, even when studying to be an elementary teacher. I tried to see if it's fallen out of favor because of subtle racism or something, but I couldn't find any - to my eye it fits in fine with works by Jerry Pinkney and |Leo And Diane Dillon, for example. I thought it
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was a great little 'how it came to be' tale. Could also be compared to Just So Stories.

Reread July 4 2015 for GR Children's Books - Caldecott:

I admit that I was a little confused at the beginning when the village storyteller is drawn exactly like Ananse. But I'm sure that's intentional.

The only bit I didn't like was the author's note speaking of "African" culture. As if Africa is inhabited by one people. I imagine there'd be less 'civil' war if that were true.... "
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
The subtitle of this Caldecott-winning picture book is: An African Tale Retold. When living in the Caribbean, Haley was intrigued by the folk tales featuring leopards and tigers, animals not indigenous to the region. She traced the origin of such stories to Africa, and further studied African
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folklore so she could capture the flavor of the languages, the people, and their customs. Haley explains in the introduction that many African stories, even if they are not about Kwaku Ananse (the “spider man”) are called “Spider Stories.” This book is about how that came to be.

The illustrations are detailed, vibrantly colored and effective in supporting the story. You can practically hear the angry buzz of the hornets, or the quiet hum of conversation among the villagers as they watch Kwaku Ananse spin his web to the sky so he can visit the Sky God.
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LibraryThing member n.oreilly
The Sky God held all the stories, but Ananse, the Spider Man wanted them for the children. He asks the Sky God for the stories, but will only receive them after he captures three creatures. The Sky God doesn't think this is possible. Ananse uses the creatures against themselves and captures them
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
The story of how Ananse, the Spider man went up to the sky to bargain with Nyame for the stories, and how he paid the seemingly impossible price the sky god wanted by being very, very clever.

Haley’s adaptation of this West African and Caribbean story about the origin of all stories and her
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colorful woodcut illustrations earned her the 1971 Caldecott Medal for the “most distinguished American picture book for children” published in the previous year.
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LibraryThing member jfe16
Once, all the stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God; he kept them in a golden box that sat next to his royal stool. Ananse, the Spider man, wanted to buy the Sky God’s stories. Spinning a web up to the sky, Ananse told the Sky God what he wanted.

Nyame laughed. And then he told Ananse the price
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for the stories.

Ananse was to bring Nyame three things: Osebo the leopard-of-the-terrible-teeth, Mmboro the hornet who-stings-like-fire, and Mmoatia the fairy whom-men-never-see.

Will Anase be able to meet the Sky God’s price? And if he does, what will he do with the stories?


This retelling of an African tale, winner of the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children, is one of the many “spider stories” in the African tradition. These stories tell how defenseless men or animals outwit others and meet with success despite great odds.

Sprinkled throughout the telling of the tale are several African words; young readers will be able to tell what they mean by their sounds. Nyame laughs: twe, twe, twe. Ananse ran: yiridi, yiridi, yiridi. All the assembled nobles shouted: Eeeee, Eeeee, Eeeee.

The African practice of repeating words is also part of the telling of the tale; this repetition makes those words stronger.

Young readers are sure to enjoy reading the story filled with Ananse’s exciting adventures; the message that anyone who perseveres has the opportunity to succeed is one that is especially important for young readers to hear. The story itself is clever and captivating; young readers will find much to appreciate here.

Highly recommended.
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½ (88 ratings; 4)
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