Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities…—Ben Okri
Today marks World Book Day, a global celebration of literature and the joy of reading. We as a library, encourage a reading culture, be you a child, teenager or an adult because reading is your right.
With children classics like How the Leopard got its claws by Chinua Achebe, The Buried Treasure by Akachi Adimoora Ezeigbo, Sugar Girl by Kola Onadipe, Ifeanyi and Obi by Charitas Onwu; our library is always open to you. Happy World Book Day!
Enjoy this Excerpt from Children of Blood and Bone: Legacy of Orisha by Tomi Adeyemi
"Spit it out, child!"
"They're coming!" Bisi finally exclaims. "They're close, they're almost here!"
For a moment I can't breathe. I don't think anyone can. Fear paralyzes every inch of our beings.
Then the will to survive takes over.
"Quickly," Mama Agba hisses. "We don't have much time!"
I pull Yemi to her feet. She's still wheezing, but there's no time to make sure she's okay. I grab her staff and rush to collect the others.
The ahéré erupts in a blur of chaos as everyone races to hide the truth. Meters of bright fabric fly through the air. An army of reed mannequins rises. With so much happening at once, there's no way of knowing whether we'll hide everything in time. All I can do is focus on my task: shoving each staff under the arena mat where they can't be seen.
As I finish, Yemi thrusts a wooden needle into my hands. I'm still running to my designated station when the sheets covering the ahéré entrance open again.
"Zélie!" Mama Agba barks.
I freeze. Every eye in the ahéré turns to me. Before I can speak, Mama Agba slaps the back of my head; a sting only she can summon tears down my spine.
"Stay at your station," she snaps. "You need all the practice you can get."
"Mama Agba, I…"
She leans in as my pulse races, eyes glimmering with the truth.
A distraction …
A way to buy us time.
"I'm sorry, Mama Agba. Forgive me."
"Just get back to your station."
I bite back a smile and bow my head in apology, sweeping low enough to survey the guards who entered. Like most soldiers in Orïsha, the shorter of the two has a complexion that matches Yemi's: brown like worn leather, framed with thick black hair. Though we're only young girls, he keeps his hand on the pommel of his sword. His grip tightens, as if at any moment one of us could strike.
The other guard stands tall, solemn and serious, much darker than his counterpart. He stays near the entrance, eyes focused on the ground. Perhaps he has the decency to feel shame for whatever it is they're about to do.
Both men flaunt the royal seal of King Saran, stark on their iron breastplates. Just a glance at the ornate snow leopanaire makes my stomach clench, a harsh reminder of the monarch who sent them.
I make a show of sulking back to my reed mannequin, legs nearly collapsing in relief. What once resembled an arena now plays the convincing part of a seamstress's shop. Bright tribal fabric adorns the mannequins in front of each girl, cut and pinned in Mama Agba's signature patterns. We stitch the hems of the same dashikis we've been stitching for years, sewing in silence as we wait for the guards to go away.
Mama Agba travels up and down the rows of girls, inspecting the work of her apprentices. Despite my nerves, I grin as she makes the guards wait, refusing to acknowledge their unwelcome presence.
"Is there something I can help you with?" she finally asks.
"Tax time," the darker guard grunts. "Pay up."
Mama Agba's face drops like the heat at night. "I paid my taxes last week."
"This isn't a trade tax." The other guard's gaze combs over all the divîners with long white hair. "Maggot rates went up. Since you've got so many, so have yours."
Of course. I grip the fabric on my mannequin so hard my fists ache. It's not enough for the king to keep the divîners down. He has to break anyone who tries to help us.
My jaw clenches as I try to block out the guard, to block out the way maggot stung from his lips. It doesn't matter that we'll never become the maji we were meant to be. In their eyes we're still maggots…
When was the last time you picked up a good book? Why not stop by our library at 196, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, and read any book of your choice for free.