cover image The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth

The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth

Margaret Musgrove. Blue Sky Press (AZ), $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-590-98787-5

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. (Feb.)