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When a young girl visits her grandmother and her cousins in their small, African village of Mbesa, she learns a surprising story about the moon, the people who have visited it, and what the moon cooks for her children. By learning the phases of the moon, she can tell what the moon is planning for dinner, and the knowledge allows the young girl to bond with her family.
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.
Grandma pours the egusi into a boiling pot of meat on the fire.
“But they are telling the truth, wain mu. There are people on the Moon. Sit down, and I’ll tell you.”
As the children gather around 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.
What the Moon Cooks captures the details of life in Mbesa, a place rich with culture and food, as told by the writer, Nsah Mala. It's illustrated by Justine Allenette Ross with an eye for capturing the details of life in the village while teaching young readers a fascinating folktale.
About the Author
Nsah Mala is a poet and writer from Cameroon who writes mainly in English and French and sometimes in his native language of Mbesa. Since 2012 he has published four collections of poems in English and one collection in French. As a children's author, he has published two picture books in Cameroon (Andolo - the Talented Albino and Andolo - l'albinos talentueux) and one in France (Le petit Gabriel commence à lire). He translated Yeehoo Press' free-to-download picture book Be a Coronavirus Fighter from English into French as Un Combattant du Coronavirus in March 2020.