Monsters on a mission: Artist says books open doors to conversations

December 2012 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
Kristin Aalbue with her children’s books at the Silverton Santa Mouse Bazaar on Dec. 1.

Kristin Aalbue with her children’s books at the Silverton Santa Mouse Bazaar on Dec. 1.

By Kristine Thomas 

Silverton resident Kristin Aalbue was devastated. She contemplated quitting.

But giving up would mean Zigfeeld and the misfit monsters of Silverville would cease to exist and their stories would never be told.

In 2010, Aalbue spent countless hours using colored pencils to illustrate a children’s book she wrote. The book was bound and ready to start showing people for sales.

Then it disappeared. She looked for it everywhere from her car to her friend’s homes, hoping it would reappear. It never did.

“There was a moment when I told myself well that’s the end of that,” she said. “I was reading children’s books to a friend’s child and thought to myself, my book idea is better than that.”

So, she started again, this time scanning the pages and saving them to several spots.

Losing the book and starting over turned out to be a blessing in disguise, she said.

“I made changes to the storyline and the book’s design that I really like,” she said. “I like my illustrations more and I know my characters better the second time writing it.”

The Happy Undead Friends
Go to: thehappyundeadfriends.com
to learn more about the booksThe books are also sold at
Whimsy 4 Kids, 206 Oak St.,
Silverton

Her first children’s book is called Welcome Home, Zigfeeld. She has 31 books planned in a series called, The Happy Undead Friends. Aalbue, 35, uses the penname Aunti Kiki.

Using bright colors and whimsical drawings, Aalbue said her goal is to write children’s books that give both children and their parents an opportunity to talk about issues from choosing a pet to dealing with death.

“Too many books talk to kids about issues, “ she said. “I wrote this to respect where kids and their families are at. My stories don’t say what’s right and wrong. It’s about making good choices and gives parents an avenue to discuss issues. It’s more subtle rather than black and white.

The monsters live in Silverville. There is Franclin, the Frankenstein-like monster; Velma, a vegetarian vampire with a juice shop; Warren, a werewolf who has troubles shape shifting; Gertrude the ghost and Zigfeeld, the zombie.

“Zigfeeld is inspired by my brother,” she said. “He is naïve and has been wandering the desert so he doesn’t know a lot about life. When he comes to Silverville, he is taught many life lessons, like what a home is and what it means to volunteer.”

When Zigfeeld lived in the desert and tried to move into a town, people didn’t like him because he was different, Aalbue explained. He had to deal with prejudice and isolation. Gertie the ghost finds him and invites him to live in Silverville.

The Happy Undead Friends

The Happy Undead Friends

Her brother, Gareth Daniel Aalbue, had Down Syndrome. He was 20 years old when he died in 2002.

“When I was in elementary school, Gareth and I were at the beach and splashing in the ocean waves,” she said. “A boy came to me and said, ‘Did you know your brother is a monster?’ I told him no, that he was special. I was always raised to treat everyone with respect and to make a difference.”

When writing and illustrating the books, Aalbue said her brother, who was liked by everyone he met, inspired her. She realized people are often afraid of things they don’t understand. She hopes her books shed light on issues, making them less scary.

“When people think of monsters, they think of the words bad, evil or wrong,” she said. “I decided to take a different twist on monsters and open the door to different ideas.”

In the first book, Zigfeeld is looking for a home. Instead of listing the different homes he could have, Aalbue created a page with various housing options from a camper to a castle.

“Too many children’s books are heavy handed in their messages,” she said. “I want to write books that help parents and their children discuss their ideas and make their own decisions about issues based on their family’s values. The picture page gives kids and adults a chance to talk about places they would like to live.”

A graduate of Cornish College in Seattle with a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design, Aalbue said her books are designed for children 3 to 9 years old. She has created coloring books and other products to go with them, which she sells online.

Aalbue realizes every parent has a different parenting styles and ideas. That’s why she created open-ended stories – allowing parents an opportunity to bring their own views to the story.

“It’s not so much about what something is, but more about helping parents and child ask questions about why something is,” she said. “Having an open mind is one of the greatest gifts to give to a child. ”

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