Creator Corner: Author Yewande Daniel-Ayoade and Illustrator Ken Daley


Welcome to Creator Corner, a blog series where we interview the creators of our recent books. For this post, we interviewed The Little Regent author Yewande Daniel-Ayoade and illustrator Ken Daley, whose book is publishing March 15, 2024!

Owlkids Books: Yewande, how did you become a children’s book author?

Yewande Daniel-Ayoade: I started writing as a child growing up in Nigeria. When I was about eight, I wrote a collection of stories that my father got his secretary to type up and put in a binder for me. This was my first “book”. In my early twenties, I wrote a full-length novel. Even though it didn’t get published, I got some great feedback from editors that encouraged me to keep writing. And then after I had my children and started reading to them, I fell in love with picture books and pivoted to writing for children.

Owlkids Books: Ken, how did you become a children’s book illustrator?

Ken Daley: I became a children’s book illustrator when I was approached by Annick Press in 2014 to do a children’s book called Joseph’s Big Ride. I’ve never illustrated a book before then, but decided to say yes, and that started my journey into children’s book illustration.

OKB: Yewande, what are your favorite things to write about?

YDA: My primary focus is writing about West African culture. I use my writing to give kids a window into a culture that is different than theirs because understanding others helps us to empathize with them. I also love writing about food, because I am an avid cook and baker.

OKB: Yewande, what inspired you to write this book?

YDA: This story was initially inspired by my children’s love for all things princesses. I wanted to write them a book about an African princess to share my culture with them in a way they would enjoy. This story idea also came to me during an election season, so I decided to make the theme of the story about what it means to be a good leader. And finally, the key line in the book: ‘those who will rule must first learn to serve’, was inspired by a Bible verse that resonates with me: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant”.

OKB: Ken, which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?

KD: I enjoyed illustrating the festival scene in the market square with Abioye sitting on the throne and all the activities happening around her. It’s such a vibrant scene displaying Yoruba culture, with the cooks making Egusi soup, the servants pounding yam, and the dancers and drummers performing the Obitun dance. I loved doing the research on these traditions so I could incorporate them into the illustration. Lots of fun!

OKB: Ken, which spread was the most challenging to illustrate and why?

KD: Actually I can’t think of one that was a challenge to illustrate! Lol! I think having done a lot of research beforehand and sketching helped me conceptualize how the spreads are going to look.

OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

YDA: That kids of all ages and genders can make a difference. And that good leaders don’t lord it over others, but demonstrate empathy and a servant’s heart.

KD: I hope the readers will find inspiration in this book, as it’s a story of self-confidence and being compassionate to others in need. I want to give readers a glimpse into Yoruba culture that is rich in history and traditions through viewing my illustrations. My hope is that The Little Regent will spark their interest to learn more about West African history and culture.

OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

YDA: I have mirror-touch synesthesia. It’s a condition where you can feel other people’s pain. It also means I experience a sensation in the same part of my body when somebody else is touched. My nose is particularly sensitive, so sometimes my kids will touch their noses in front of me just for fun because I will feel as if my nose is being touched as well.

KD: Not a lot of people know that I love to sing and dance. I sang professionally as a tenor in the Toronto Mass Choir, and performed at many churches, weddings, festivals and funerals.

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