Updated date:

The Boy of the Red Twilight 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.

The illustration from the book The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairytales and Folktales from Around the World

The illustration from the book The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairytales and Folktales from Around the World

Thesis Idea

Some years ago I started an alphabet book for children as a thesis project for my illustration degree. It transformed many times before I was done.

We have art so that we shall not die of reality.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

My thumbnail sketch for the illustration for The Boy of the Red Twilight

My thumbnail sketch for the illustration for The Boy of the Red Twilight

Collage Illustrations

First, I decided I didn’t want the typical “A is for Apple” type of book or animal alphabet book; those have been done. I have a love of fairy tales and so the fairy tale theme began. Second, my advisors saw some of my collage work and suggested that I make the illustrations in collage instead of watercolor. Knowing that would take much longer, I began right away. But even then the transformation continued.

Life is just a series of obstacles preventing you from doing art.

— Ma Ly

My value sketch for the illustration for the Boy of the Red Twilight

My value sketch for the illustration for the Boy of the Red Twilight

Global Fairytales

After doing R is for Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack in the Beanstalk, I thought I was going to have trouble finding fairy tales for all 26 letters if I stuck to the typical Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And that’s when it hit me to be more global. Why not research fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world? This added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying.

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.

— Bob Dylan

A Canadian Folktale

Long ago on the shores of the Great Water in the great northwest, there lived a young man and his wife. Far from other people, they lived on an island off of the coast. The man caught deep-sea fish far out on the ocean and in the deep rivers. Often he was gone for many days and his wife was very lonely since they had no children. She could be very sad in the evenings when the sky looked grey and the sound of the surf and birds was her only company. Day after day, she said to herself, "If only we had children, they would keep me company."

The sky was always dull and grey at twilight in that country, and when the sun had gone down there was no soft light. One day wishing she had children to keep her company, a Kingfisher told her to look in a seashell and when she did she found a tiny boy crying. The husband was surprised when he came home. The couple was now very happy to finally have a child.

As the baby grew older, the man and his wife noticed that the boy’s face took on a golden hue, and wherever he went there was a strange light. When he sat on the beach looking to the west, the weather was always calm and there were strange bright gleams upon the water. When the man and woman asked about his power of color, he would say it is not yet time.

One day the boy told his foster-parents that it was time for him to leave. The couple was very sad but the boy said that he would appear often in the twilight in the west. Sure enough, when his parents yearned for him, he appears after the sun goes down in the west as a red twilight.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

— Maya Angelou

Published with Lulu

This story if a Native American folktale from Canada and is shortened to fit into my book. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find several versions of The Boy of the Red Twilight.

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 was doable, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which was not. That would destroy to look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations, and so I had to find a different publisher who would allow it. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

My book took over 3 years to complete and so I celebrated when it was finally published. Now it is time to think about what is next.

Collage progress for Boy of the Red Twilight

Collage progress for Boy of the Red Twilight

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. I’ve been thinking that perhaps it is time to do another one. There were so many stories I had to pass over because there was just not enough room or letters in the alphabet. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 11, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

I must admit that I've noticed too, the loss of fairytales in this generation, other than Disney versions. I did take some liberties with some of them to tone down the gruesome factor that is often in some of the older Grimm's fairytales and others. But then, so did Disney. For the most part, I think I was true to stories and feel good about getting them out there where kids can appreciate them again. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Liz Westwood from UK on January 10, 2020:

Your book sounds like a great idea. There's a danger these days that the old fairy tales might be overlooked in childhood. Your book gives them new life. I recall hearing similar tales to this one in the past, but not exactly like the one you have told.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 07, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

Thank you so much for your good opinion. I have been thinking that a new book would be a good thing to start in this new year. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 07, 2020:

RoadMonkey,

I agree. I love fairy tales too. It must be the child in me. I never grew up. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 07, 2020:

A fairy tale alphabet book for children was a great idea. Congratulations on its publication, Denise. Your illustration for the letter B is beautiful. I think you should definitely create another book!

RoadMonkey on January 07, 2020:

I love fairy stories. My daughter bought me a book of adult fairy tales for Christmas gathered by Angela Carter, published by Virago. I have just finished reading it and enjoyed it very much. Children love illustrated books and can find lots to talk about in the pictures.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 07, 2020:

Devika Primić,

It is nice to mix things up and surprise people sometimes. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 07, 2020:

Bill Holland,

I appreciate your confidence. I'm not really a writer like you but I try. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 07, 2020:

Marie Flint,

It is a funny thing about children's books: they take just as long as adult books, maybe take more work when you think of the art involved, and don't pay near as much. You have to have a love and dedication to the concept to put that much time and effort into children's books. I hope you do eventually do the 25 series books. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 07, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

Thank you. You are so kind. I loved the idea myself although I haven't sold very many of them. I was just happy to finish the book and see it in print. A series sounds like a great idea and one worthy of a lot of thought. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 07, 2020:

Hi Denise you surprised me with this one. Interesting insight to such tales. Congrats on your book!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2020:

Lovely idea and lovely work, my friend. Yes, for sure, it is time for another one.

Blessings always

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on January 07, 2020:

Wow, Denise! I love your work. You are so gifted. I intended to do a multicultural series of 25 children's picture books when I was several years out of college, but still haven't really started. You, however, are doing great. Very, very nice!

Lorna Lamon on January 07, 2020:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article Denise and what a wonderful idea creating fairy tales from around the world to give added depth to the alphabet. I imagine this could also be replicated for numbers or the seasons - you could have a series. You are so talented Denise,