Case Study: Caliebirri


Cuchi cuchi coooo — that's the sound of the tickle. Surely this is universal. And I have the book to prove it.

Caliebirri, written by Luis Blanco and illustrated by Alfredo Almeida, is a Venezuelan folktale that tells the story of how the Guajibo people came to be. In it, is a character named Cuchicuchi ho one evening discovers the magnificent Caliebirri tree — bearer of all and every fruit. Taunted by the sweet smells covering Cuchicuchi on his arrival back to the village, the rest of the animals become obsessed with finding out for themselves, the source of such sweetness.

As West Indian readers, we will find great joy in seeing a Lappe character, along with Bachacs, Parakeets and Macaws find their way into the story. However it is the Lappe that reveals the nature of our tickle tradition. There is a scene that follows, where we find Cuchicuchi and Lappe brandishing fire torches at one another. During this fight Lappe gets scorched on his cheeks and both sides of his body. While Cuchicuchi loses all the hair on his belly.

As the story progresses, the rest of the animals are found raiding the Caliebirri tree to its eventual demise. However, not all is completely lost, as the village Chief declares,

"As we have finished up all the fruit, let us collect all the seeds and plant them everywhere so that we can have orchards of fruit forever." And this is what they did. And this is why today we have every kind of fruit that grows upon the Earth...because they all came from the Caliebirri tree once upon a time."

In conclusion Cuchi cuchi coooo has traveled the world over. Wherever there is fruit, there is a ticklish Cuchicuchi belly. And according to Hivi or Guajibo folklore, it began in Santa Rita, Venezuela.

Thank-you Bunty O'Connor for translating this beautiful story and entrusting me with the design. It was a blast and can't wait for the next adventurous collaboration.