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Kiigbo Kiigba and the Helpful Spirits, A West African Folktale

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

K is for Kiigbo Kiigba and the Helpful Spirits

K is for Kiigbo Kiigba and the Helpful Spirits

My Children’s Alphabet Book

If you have followed me, by now you may have noticed I created a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales for each letter of the alphabet. I could have concentrated on all the old favorites but I decided to make it a book with fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world. This particular folk tale was a new one to me from West Africa. The idea that there were spirits lurking in the village is a little foreign in the Western culture but I have heard of it before. Once you accept that, the story is charming.

Global Fairytales

When it hit me to be more global I had already created the pages for R is for Little Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack and the Beanstalk. The research for the global fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world certainly added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying. This one has a great moral for children. Can you decipher what it is?


Value Sketch for Kiigbo Kiigba

Value Sketch for Kiigbo Kiigba

Kiigbo Kiigba and the Helpful Spirits, A West African Folktale

There was once a stubborn young boy named Kiigbo Kiigba who never listened. Both people and spirits inhabited the village, and to avoid disputes a law was passed to enable spirits to roam the land on certain days when all people agreed to stay home. Kiigbo Kiigba did not obey this law. On the first day, Kiibo Kiigba took his hoe and went to his farm. He had not worked long when he heard strange voices coming from all around, saying, “What are you doing?” “I am Kiigbo Kiigba and I am tilling my land,” he answered. “Very well, we will help you,” and hundreds of hoes appeared. Before long the entire farm was tilled and Kiigbo went home.

On the second day of the spirits, Kiigbo Kiigba went to his farm to plant his yams. He had just begun when he heard the booming voices ask, “What are you doing.” “I am Kiigbo Kiigba and I am planting my yams.” “We will help you.” Quickly, the yam seedlings had all been planted in neat little heaps. The third time Kiigbo Kiigba headed to his farm to harvest his yams. He started to dig up the first yam when the now familiar voices boomed out, “What are you doing?” “I am Kiigbo Kiigba and I am harvesting my yams.” “We will help you,” and swiftly, all the yams had been dug up and placed in a big heap.

Kiigbo had just looked at the first yam he had dug up and realized that it was not yet ready for harvest. In fact, none of the yams were ready. Kiigbo Kiigba would have examined a few yams and decided whether to give the yams more time but now it was too late and these helpful spirits had ruined his entire crop.

Kiigbo Kiigba cried “Oh no,” and he hit his head with both hands in sorrow. The spirits asked, “What are you doing?” “I am Kiigbo Kiigba and I am hitting my head in sorrow.” “We will help you,” and a hundred hands appeared and beat Kiigbo Kiigba on his head.

Color Composition for Kiigbo Kiigba.  This where I need to be sure the lighting works before beginning my collage.

Color Composition for Kiigbo Kiigba. This where I need to be sure the lighting works before beginning my collage.

Collage Illustrations

I didn’t want my book to be just one more “A is for Apple” alphabet book and since I love fairy tales, why not use them instead? After deciding that, I was told I should use my collage method instead of the usual watercolor illustrations that I had originally desired. The collage took much longer but in the end, it made for a very unique book.

I hope you enjoy my process here showing the start with thumbnail sketches, then value sketch, color composition and finally, the collage. My little Kiigbo Kiigba I illustrated as a younger person than the story implied but I wanted children to be able to relate to him. Do you think I accomplished that?

When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul… a small piece of someone else’s life.

— Anonymous

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story of Kiigbo Kiigba and the Helpful Spirits.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

This is the finished collage illustration for the book

This is the finished collage illustration for the book

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on September 23, 2020:

Peggy Woods,

It was certainly fun to create. I used two photo references. The face of the boy is different from the boy who posed with his arms crossed. He was the grandson of a friend of mine but that face was so charming I just had to use it. He looks like he's up to something. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 22, 2020:

Kiigbo Kiigba learned a lesson the hard way by not listening to his elders. Of course, the ramifications would have also hurt his entire family by having that yam crop ruined. Another interesting tale you have shared here. I love the collage image of the boy that you fashioned.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Jason Nicolosi,

I'm so happy you like the collages, especially since they take so much time and preparation to do. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on February 23, 2020:

Excellent job Denise, I really enjoyed it. Kiigbo Kiigba should have been more cautious and listened. I love your colleagues they are amazing and beautifully done.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 23, 2020:

William Kovacic,

I am pleased to reveal stories you haven't heard before. I'm so glad you like my work. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 23, 2020:

Another one of those stories I haven't heard before, and of course, the artwork was superb. Thanks, Denise.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

Yes, it is sad that the whole crop was ruined. And he got a headache to boot. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

RoadMonkey,

They did, didn't they? I found it a very funny story. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

James C Moore,

I loved putting them all together. It took 3 years to get all the illustrations done. I'm glad you like them. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

Donna Rayne,

I'm so glad it kept your attention. That is so important for a children's story. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

I appreciate your approval. It took some research but was very rewarding. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

Bill Holland,

I'm glad you like it. It's funny that I had to "Frankenstein" by reference photo to get the final image. I love the face of one boy but he didn't have that body language. It was another boy who put on the body language I was looking for. So in Photoshop I cut the head from one photo and the body from the other to draw the boy I wanted. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

Devika Primić,

Have you heard this story before? I'm glad you like it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

I loved his spirit too. So funny. It has become my favorite fairy tale. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 21, 2020:

You've shared an unusual and interesting folktale. I couldn't help feeling sorry for the boy at the end of the story, even though he had disobeyed the law. I love his pose in your illustrations!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 21, 2020:

John Hansen,

It certainly was too good to be true. He should have listened. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 21, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

Your Gabe has attitude too then? Good for him. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

RoadMonkey on February 21, 2020:

This is a great moral tale! I think anyone could relate to this. And those spirits thought they were being SOOOO helpful!

James C Moore from The Great Midwest on February 21, 2020:

Wow, somebody's gonna have a headache! I've read at least three of your alphabet/picture stories. Creative and catchy.

Donna Rayne from Greenwood, In on February 21, 2020:

This was a wonderful story, Denise. Kept my attention and I love reading your stories!

Great job! You are such a good writer and illustrator!

Blessings,

Donna Rayne

Liz Westwood from UK on February 21, 2020:

I like the way that you are collecting your tales from all over the world. You have captured the stubbornness of Kiigbo Kiigba well in your illustrations.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 21, 2020:

This might be my favorite.I love the sketch of the young boy....proud, a bit defiant, and mischievous. Well done, you!

Blessings this weekend

bill

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 21, 2020:

This is a well told story about Kiigbo Kiigba and glad you have your work published. I hope you have many more readers. The illustrations are incredible!

Lorna Lamon on February 21, 2020:

I love the way you have captured the essence of this little boy in your art Denise. A tale with a moral, however, I loved his spirit. Another wonderful addition.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 20, 2020:

This is a great tale with a good message. Laws are in place for a reason and Kiigbo Kiigba should have listened. He must have thought it too good to be true to get all that help....and it was.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 20, 2020:

Wow your articles are interesting. Delightfully choreographed.

With the arms crossed the boy reminds me of Gabe.