A US publishing house for children’s literature POW! Kids Books has acquired worldwide rights, excluding Africa, to Cameroonian poet and author Nsah Mala’s debut picture book What the Moon Cooks. The news of the acquisition was reported by The Bookseller in their weekly rights report for July 13. The author and the illustrator – South African designer Lutfia Kamish-Ebrahim- represented themselves with the author retaining the rights to Africa.
The book is described as “blending Mbesa folklore, cuisine, and science fiction, the story follows a Cameroonian girl who visits her parents’ native village and learns about her ancestors’ relationship to the moon and its phases.”
Born in Cameroon, Mala is the author of the poetry collections Chaining Freedom, Bites of Insanity, and If You Must Fall Bush. His poetry and short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines such as Stories for Humanity, Dissident Voice, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Kalahari Review, Spillwords Press, Modern Research Studies and Tuck Magazine.
Here’s the full synopsis from Goodreads:
Sheika is a bold and inquisitive girl from Bamenda City in Cameroon. One day, her parents send her to visit their native village, Kuokum, to meet her grandma and cousins for the first time. While excited at all the new things she might learn, Sheika worries about whether these rural family members who are so different from her will like her.
In the village, Sheika is teased by her cousins for knowing so little about the culture from which she comes. When her cousin Menkong tells her that Mbesa people just like them live on the Moon, Sheika thinks it’s just another taunt. But Grandma knows better.
As the children gather round the boiling pot of meat and egusi in the fireplace, Grandma tells the story of Nkuombi, their ancestor who traveled to the Moon and studied her, long before the spaceship Apollo 11. Indeed, Grandma explains, lots of Mbesa people live on the Moon, and the Moon cooks for all of her children. What the Moon cooks determines how she will appear in the sky. If she arrives early at sunset and shaped like a tiny crescent, this means she has cooked pumpkin leaves. They take almost no time to get ready. If the moon arrives a little late, and is shaped like a semicircle, this means she has cooked cocoyams, because they take so much time to get ready!
After learning all about the Moon and her phases, Sheika and her family take their dinner outside, sharing their meal together, and with the Moon-folk who look down from the sky.
“I am super excited about this picture book deal.” Nsah Mala tells Brittle Paper. “Although I have been working towards taking my writing to another level, I did not see this coming now: having rights to my book acquired! This gives me more reasons to keep improving my craft, hoping for more of such exciting news in the future as God wills. I give God all the glory! I can’t wait to see kids all over the world discovering what the Moon can cook as they read this book.”
The book will be published in spring 2021.