Head of Zeus will publish Ben Okri’s first children’s book, Every Leaf a Hallelujah, with illustrations by Diana Ejaita.
Pitched as “an enchanting ecological tale set in Africa" with specially commissioned illustrations from Italian-Nigerian artist Ejaita, the book will be featured in six consecutive one-page extracts in The Bookseller from the beginning of July accompanied by a comprehensive publicity and marketing campaign.
Head of Zeus editor-at-large Maggie McKernan acquired world rights from Georgina Capel at Georgina Capel Associates. It will be published in hardback and e-book on 14th October 2021 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the publication of Okri’s Booker Prize-winning novel, The Famished Road (Vintage).
Every Leaf a Hallelujah follows a young girl called Mangoshi. The blurb reads: “When the tribal elders ask Mangoshi to go into the forest to look for a special flower that will save her village, and her mum, she knows she has to go, even though she is just one little girl and the forest is big and dark and full of whispers. Soon Mangoshi realises that she must do more than find the flower and save her home. She must save the forest itself.”
A fully illustrated book, “Ejaita’s stunning artwork combines contrasting areas of black and white with soft patterns and textures that create powerful and distinctive images, making Every Leaf a Hallelujah a book that will be cherished by children and adults around the world,” Head of Zeus said.
Okri commented: “This is a novel for all children of nature. With this story I wanted to foster a greater love of trees and an awareness of the rich role they play in our lives. They give us so much, quietly, like a constant benediction. The tale is meant to open our eyes and hearts to the abundant blessings of nature. Which is why the courage to protect our natural environment is central to this book. It is the courage the world needs.”
Ejaita was born in Italy to an Italian mother and Nigerian father. She lives in Berlin but travels often to Africa. Her first solo show will take place this summer in Lagos. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, the Boston Globe and other publications. In 2020 she produced three covers for the New Yorker magazine.
The illustrator said: “I am very excited to have created the images for Ben Okri's new book. When I was contacted by his editor I jumped with joy. Ben is one of the first Nigerian writers I read. His work adds another dimension to our view of the world and images come naturally into my mind when I read him. The story of Every Leaf a Hallelujah touches me deeply and makes me long for a better future.”
Head of Zeus chairman Anthony Cheetham added: “Every Leaf a Hallelujah is an enchanting story with an important message for the future of our planet. Ben has the gift of words; Diana Ejaita’s illustrations add the vibrant moods and colours of their shared Nigerian heritage.”