cover image First Palm Trees: An Anancy Spiderman Story

First Palm Trees: An Anancy Spiderman Story

James R. Berry. Simon & Schuster, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81060-2

Berry's (Ajeemah and His Son) original story stars a favorite West Indian mythical trickster, Anancy Spiderman, in a spunky tale of cooperation. When the king offers a handsome reward to anyone who can bring palm trees to the kingdom, Anancy pours on ""his persuasive sweet-talking"" to win Sun-Spirit's aid. But Sun-Spirit requires yet another partner: ""My work is not only my work. On my own I cannot make one root, one leaf, one blossom, one fruit."" Grudgingly, Anancy agrees to the partnership. But his reward fractures as the refrain of partnership is repeated by Water-Spirit, then Earth-Spirit and finally by Air-Spirit. By the time the palm trees appear, Anancy's role has withered to ""the fifth partner""--""the caller-to-work."" Berry's lyrical characterization of the four spirits (e.g., Air-Spirit is ""an upright flappy pool of wind... all blowy with a shimmer"") further brightens the text's island cadence. Matching his evocative words are Couch's (The Windigo's Return) textured illustrations, which combine colored-pencil drawings with multi-layered acrylic washes. Replete with subtle meanings, the art juxtaposes an airy radiance with earthy umber: Sun-Spirit's rays call up authentic weaving patterns; Anancy is a man draped in scarf-like fabrics that suggest eight appendages. As Anancy would say, this book is ""Good news come!"" Ages 5-up. (Dec.)