“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” wrote Toni Morrison. Imagine a world with no Hobbits, no Aslan, no Dr. Who. These English mythologies, love them or hate them, are rampant, bold and provocative. There is a tendency for children’s books set in ‘Africa’ to be somewhat journalistic. Just the facts. The bad ones. Or they are about being black, which most children don’t think about until they’re told to. My first children’s book, The Wedding Week, is a joyful response to the prevailing narrative.
Five years ago, I was doing my dream job: working at Random House in London publishing a list of multicultural children’s books. Unfortunately, it was fraught with unwelcome realities. I was constantly handed manuscripts set in grim housing or squalid rural poverty, peopled with self-hating or one-dimensional black characters. Stories read more like statistics. Selling the diverse books we published was another problem. ‘We don’t have people like that in this area,’ a bookseller might say (they didn’t have local Hobbits or wizards either, but that wasn’t an issue.) While visiting relatives in Nigeria, I found a children’s bookshop in Lagos with NO African children or African languages in their books. That day changed everything.
I founded Kio Global, a company that distributes multicultural and multilingual resources for children. Kio exists to ensure that no children feel invisible in the books they read. This year, I wrote our first original resource, a multilingual picture book called The Wedding Week. Set in Lagos, the story reflects a contemporary, urban Africa. Told in local languages, the text is dual Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and English. The story leads up to Cousin Ayo’s traditional Yoruba wedding, from the child’s eye view of twins Femi and Kemi – and of a neighbourly wall gecko. The Wedding Week explores traditions around Nigeria and the world from a place of modernity and imagination. The story invites global readers to one of Africa’s most iconic, dramatic and exciting events. And did I mention the talking lizard?
[Via: Africa Is A Country]