HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Oh Kojo! How Could You! An Ashanti Tale
Author: Verna Aardema
Illustrator: Marc Brown
Publisher: Puffin, republished in 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0241113752 (hardback)
ISBN-10: 024111375X (hardback)
ISBN-13: 978-0140546699 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 0140546693 (paperback)
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Aardema, Verna. Oh Kojo! How Could You! An Ashanti Tale (published in 1984 by Hamish Hamilton Ltd.; republished in 1992 by Trumpet Club Special Educational Editions). This is a book that we checked out of the library to use for extra practice when our younger son Jeremy was learning how to read. It is a retelling of a humorous Ashanti folktale relating how a young man named Kojo finally gets the better of the tricky Anansi and explaining how cats rose to prominence over dogs. The splashy illustrations are by Marc Brown of “Arthur Aardvark” fame. The Ashanti are a major ethnic group in the west African nation of Ghana. They are an Akan people who speak Asante, a dialect similar to Fante. Prior to European colonization, the Ashanti people developed a large and influential empire in West Africa and later developed the powerful Ashanti Confederacy or Asanteman and became the dominant presence in the region.
Publishers Weekly called the book “A funny Sudanese tale,” so some reviewer needs to bone up on his African geography because Sudan is a long way from Ghana! The story is about Anansi, a trickster, who takes advantage of Kojo, a lazy and foolish young man. After several funny events, a cat helps Kojo overcome Anansi’s cleverness, thus relating the place of cats in Ashanti life. It is said that Anansi has been used in many African tales to teach young people proper behavior. Author Verna Aardema, whose books have won various awards, was a school teacher in Michigan from 1934 to 1973. Her writings include many African tales full of expressive animal characters, including Bimwili and the Zimwi, a story from Zanzibar; Who’s in Rabbit’s House?, a Masai tale from Kenya; and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, a West African story.