News and Interviews

In Conversation with Author Yewande Daniel-Ayoade and Illustrator Ken Daley

Yewande Daniel-Ayoade & Ken Daley in conversation

Author Yewande Daniel-Ayoade crafts a unique and uplifting fable in her latest picturebook. It's the story of an eight-year-old girl in a West African village who loses her father, who was the king, and is made temporary regent until another ruler can be chosen. While the chiefs in the village scoff at the decision, young Abioye leans on her father's teachings to defy her doubters and critics.

It's a keenly feminist tale about the importance of being connected to a community, what it means to serve, and the power of tradition and subverting it when needed. Drawing on Yoruba traditions and culture, and augmented by beautiful illustrations by Ken DaleyThe Little Regent (Owlkids Books) is an inspiring story by two talented and singular artists. 

We welcome both the author and illustrator of The Little Regent to Open Book in this Creator Conversation interview!

Yewande Daniel-Ayoade

Yewande Daniel-Ayoade, author of The Little Regent

Open Book:

What was the strangest or most memorable part of creating this book for you? 

Yewande Daniel-Ayoade:

This story almost made it into the garbage bin a la Stephen King - Carrie style. When I first wrote it, I thought it was really special, but I got so many rejections from agents and editors alike that I thought it wasn't worth working on anymore. Then a friend, who was at the time battling terminal cancer, convinced me to pick it up again. So, I got feedback from some amazing fellow authors, revised it, and the rest, as they say, is history.


Do you relate to any of the characters in the book? If so, who and in what ways? 


I can definitely relate to the main character, Abioye. Imposter syndrome is real y'all. When Abioye becomes regent she finds the responsibility daunting and is unsure of herself. That's pretty much how I have felt the bulk of my writing career. I think with creatives, a sense of insecurity is almost a given. Having to put something that is an integral part of your identity in front of others to be judged is a frightening proposition to even the most talented people. So, all I had to do was tap into my own fears and Abioye came to life.

I can also relate to Abioye's mother. In this story, she gives her daughter direction without expressly telling her what to do. Ensuring the child character in the story had agency was critical, but that is also generally my parenting approach. I try to give my children space to discover for themselves what they are capable of. It can be very hard to do, but when they do find their way, like Abioye does in this book, it is very rewarding.

The Little Regent by Yewande Daniel-Ayoade and Illustrator Ken Daley

The Little Regent


What do you hope young readers will take away from your book? 


Two things are important to me that young readers take away from this book.

The first is what true leadership looks like. I have been disheartened in recent years to see how in politics, people that are brash, uncaring, and arrogant are celebrated. It's a very unfortunate turn of events. When I think about leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Nelson Mandela, and the thoughtfulness and deep sense of responsibility that they brought to their roles, it breaks my heart that in this present day, we will endorse anyone who shares our views and will stick it to our opponents. 

Being a Christian, the Bible verse (which the book's theme is based on) that says leaders are to first be servants has always resonated with me. So, I hope kids come away with a sense that leadership is about empathy and caring for the needs of others.

Secondly, coming from a culture that is still deeply patriarchal, I hope that kids also learn from this book that age, gender, or any other societal boundary should not stop you from aspiring to any career or accomplishment. If you can dream it, you can do it.

Ken Daley

Ken Daley, Illustrator of The Little Regent

Open Book:

What made you want to illustrate The Little Regent?

Ken Daley:

My passion is illustrating stories that center Black characters and experiences so when I first read the manuscript of The Little Regent, I was totally hooked! I love that the character is a little Yoruba girl who becomes the regent and eventually the first female king, while keeping her integrity and demonstrating empathy towards others. The story really resonated with me, and getting the chance to research Yoruba culture and traditions for the book was something I couldn’t pass up!


How did you research the culture to ensure authenticity? 


I did a lot of research on the people, traditions, religions, history, culture, art and architecture of the Yoruba, and collected photo references of traditional regalia of regents in the royal Yoruba courts. A good portion of my research was done online using various sources such as Google search, Pinterest boards, Reddit threads, YouTube videos, and visiting museum collections online. Yewande provided some valuable links and author notes that helped me become acquainted with Yoruba culture, history and architecture. At the time, Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka was playing at the Stratford Festival theatre. I decided to attend the performance and it gave me more insight into the court culture and attire of the Yoruba people. All the material that I gathered helped me with ensuring that the illustrations are authentic to the time and setting of the story.


What was your work space like while working on your part of the book? What did you need in order to make a work session successful (food, tools, music, rituals, etc)? 


I have a tiny studio space containing all my art supplies but nowadays I work digitally, so the setup I have in my space consists of a Wacom Cintiq screen tablet, and a laptop on a desk. As I was working on the book, my ritual consisted of listening to podcasts and music; actually a lot of afrobeats, calypso, soca, reggae, 90's hip hop, gospel. Sometimes I danced when I was really feeling the vibes, and then got back to drawing with renewed energy! Other times I would pray for guidance while I drew, so it depended on what I needed at that particular time to keep the creative juices flowing. 


Yewande Daniel-Ayoade is a Nigerian-Canadian author whose children’s love for princesses inspired her to write this book. When she is not working as a management consultant, Yewande can be found cooking, baking, singing, or playing board games. Yewande lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband and five children.

Ken Daley is an award-winning artist/illustrator who lives in Tillsonburg, Ontario. His art and illustrations are inspired by his African-Caribbean heritage, and he has exhibited his work in Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean. Ken has illustrated numerous children’s books and received an Américas Award Honor Book and a Kirkus Best Picture Book for Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings.

Buy the Book

The Little Regent

A little girl is tasked with ruling her West African village in this empowering story about breaking from tradition and leading with your heart.

After the king of a West African village dies, his eight-year-old daughter Abioye is made the temporary ruler, or regent, until a new king is chosen. The chiefs scoff at this decision—a little girl can’t be regent! Even Abioye herself doubts whether she’s up to the task. But her late father’s words of wisdom comfort and guide her: Those who will rule must first learn to serve.

The next day, amid meetings about taxes and titles, Abioye keeps her eyes and ears open for ways to serve her people. When she hears about their dried-up well, their leaky boats, and their hungry children, she decides to devote herself to helping the villagers instead of attending stuffy meetings with the chiefs. With her ideas and support, the village flourishes. But as the villagers praise her leadership, the chiefs complain that she is abandoning her duties, and announce that it's time for a new king. When the time comes for the villagers to vote for their new ruler, they reject all the other candidates and crown Abioye instead, making her the first female King the village has ever had!

Author Yewande Daniel-Ayoade draws on Yoruba traditions and culture to craft a highly original, uplifting feminist fable. Abioye’s journey will inspire readers, regardless of age or gender, to discover their inner strength, wisdom, and capacity to lead.

The Little Regent cover, image of young West African girl in regal clothes standing in front of adoring villagers, with text above image.