Monday, February 8, 2010

50. Anansi Boys

Gaiman, Neil. Anansi Boys. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-051518-8. ISBN-10:0-06-051518-X. Harper Collins. First Edition, 2005.

Plot Summary
Fat Charlie is a nickname that stuck for Charles Nancy growing up in Florida. He was raised by his mother and colorful father who fished by day, told stories, boozed, and sang Karaoke by night. This unorthodox behavior from Mr. Nancy led to a childhood full of embarrassment for Fat Charlies and also to the eventual separation of his parents at the age of 10. Fat Charlie later moves to London where he eventually lands a job he hates at an accounting agency. While preparing for his wedding, Fat Charlie finds out that his father has passed away due to an incident involving karaoke and beautiful women.

Still holding a grudge after all these years, he reluctantly attends the Florida funeral. From conversations with his father's chatty and elderly neighbors he discovers his magical past. He learns his father is the manifestation of the African spider god Anansi, and also that he has a brother he never knew he had. This information is hard to sink in, but one drunken night in London soon after Fat Charlie tells a spider that if he ever sees his brother to tell him to come over for a visit. Never in his wildest dreams did he think this drunken conversation would come to fruition. Fat Charlie's brother Spider is everything Fat Charlie is not. He is a true pleasure seeker like his father, confident, charming, and can use magic at will. Spider soon disrupts Fat Charlie's life when he assumes his identity and takes over his relationship with his fiance and his job. If that wasn't enough, Spider refuses to leave, and when Fat Charlie makes a deal with the gods to get rid of his brother for good, the events that follow weave a web of discovery and enlightenment that allow him to find his true voice as son of the god of stories.

Critical Evaluation
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller and the genre of fantasy is where he excels. In his novel Anansi boys, he draws on the characters and stories of African folklore and weaves them into a modern tale making them relevant for a new generation. The story's plot is wildly complex detailing the struggles of several characters with intertwining fates, but the way that the story unravels doesn't leave the reader feeling confused or unsatisfied. The complexity of the situations and circumstances are presented in a way that is humorous, entertaining, and easy to understand. This memorable plot deals with ghosts, karaoke, money laundering, and even a police chase to the island of St. Andrews. One of the things that makes this novel so great is that you don't need to have any previous knowledge of African folklore to understand the plot, or to enjoy it for that matter, because where the novel really shines is with Gaiman's memorable characters.

The stories protagonist, Fat Charlie, who is not actually fat at all, goes through the beautiful transformation from a boy without courage or dreams to a man who has accepted his family and faced his fears. Fat Charlie's father Mr. Nancy is charming and hilarious man who also happens to be an immortal God. Fat Charlie's brother Spider can use magic to disguise his identity and can teleport himself to anywhere he can see in his imagination. This is not your typical family, and not by any means your typical story. The combination of folklore in a modern setting, an exciting plot, and memorable characters, make this novel one that is sure to be memorable for adults and teens for generations to come.

Reader's Annotation
Fat Charlie leads an ordinary life, works an ordinary desk job, and has resented his father since his parents divorce when he was 10 years old. His whole life changes at his father's funeral when he discovers that he has a brother he never knew, and that the man he has resented is a god.

Author Information
Neil Gaimin is a critically acclaimed author writing for children, adults, motion pictures, television, comics, and the stage. He has won numerous awards including: 3 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, and most recently the Newberry Medal for his Novel The Graveyard book.

Gaiman teamed up with artist and director Dave McKean to write the screenplay for the Jim Henson Company production of the visually spectacular film Mirrormask. Gaiman also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Beowulf with film icon Robert Zemeckis. Gaiman is also well known for his original work on the Vertigo comic book series The Sandman. The Sandman is the only comic book series to ever win a World Fantasy award.

fantasy, urban fantasy

Curriculum Ties
English, African folklore

Book Talking Ideas
What would you do if you found out that you were the son of a god?
Discuss different Anansi stories, or Anansi history.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9+

Challenge Issues

violence, sex

Challenge defense ideas:

1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection

Anansi Boys was the first title that jumped out at me from the Young Adult Titles List that was given in class. I have read most of Neil Gaiman's graphic novels, but for some reason I had never got around to reading any of his novels for adults. I think that Gaiman's popularity amongst teen audiences because of his work in the comic book industry will make Anansi Boys a popular Adult Crossover title for teens.

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