Having completed three qualifications as well as moved countries nine times, I at last felt ready to immigrate to that unchartered and daunting territory, called motherhood! The in-depth knowledge of three sisters, with quite a few offspring between them, resulted in a baby room that resembled a mini M&S; stocked to the brim with toys and clothes for all ages, from newborn to at least middle school.
Fast-forward and one baby boy later, I was back at home from hospital and preparing little Alexander for his first peaceful night at home. But, “oh, no!” my M&S shelves sported no pyjamas! “Do babies even wear pyjamas?” I wondered. And so, I called my sister, who was off camping with her tent somewhere in Africa, to ask whether babies wore pyjamas when they went to bed at night. Little did I know then, that it was at that precise moment that my children’s book series, Alexander’s Questions, was born?
In my upcoming book, Do Babies wear pyjamas? Mummy calls her sister, who is camping somewhere in the middle of Africa, to ask whether babies wear pyjamas. Mummy’s sister could not hear very well, as just at that moment, lions were roaring outside her tent. Instead of hearing the word ‘pyjamas’, Mummy’s sister hears “bananas”. And thinking that Mummy was looking for a recipe with bananas, Mummy’s sister shouted recipes for banana milkshakes, banana muffins, banana smoothies, baked bananas, banana jam etc.
A degree in art and another in art psychotherapy led me to working with vulnerable children in the UK, focusing on healthy attachment and bonding with parents. Writing and illustrating seemed to be the ideal way of combining my experience in art therapy with my love for both books and children. I wished to create humorous books in which adults listened to children; filled with vibrant, busy illustrations to enhance the reading experience, encourage communication and in turn lead to invaluable bonding between parents and children.
Alexander, the hero of the books in the series, Alexander’s Questions, is an inquisitive boy who is perpetually hunting for the answers to important questions like Do Grannies have green fingers? Do Daddies have ants in their pants? Are Mummies scared of monsters? and now, Do Babies wear pyjamas? Importantly, the adults in the book listen to Alexander and my aim is to tap into the small reader’s fresh and unrestricted view of the world without explaining everything from an adult’s point of view. Humour, misconceptions and word play, play a pivotal part in engaging young minds.
I believe that the funniest and most interesting stories are already right around us and ready to be written down. The stories in my books have mostly sprouted from questions asked by my children and events that took place within our family setting. Once, I have decided on a question, such as Do Babies wear pyjamas? as well as who the characters in the story will be, I am ready to embroider the story around the title and the characters. This process takes time, but has become easier as the series evolved and taken on a personality of its own.
Once, I have secured the outline of the story, I am ready to start planning the illustrations by drawing a storyboard with rough sketches and text. The next step is to plan what the characters should look like. When in doubt, I consult family members and especially my children, who have always, for obvious reasons, been most knowledgeable on what would work best for small readers.
The upside to writing and illustrating from my studio at home is that there is a constant supply of models to draw from. The Barkingtons, my two westies pose for their character, the Tinster, and my children are available to give invaluable input to issues such as the choice of clothes for characters, but also unwittingly allowing me to see the story unfold from their perspective.
For the illustrations, I use a mixture of traditional collage made up of photographs and illustrations to create a multi-textured world. Placing my fictional characters in photo realistic surroundings creates exciting dialogue between fantasy and reality, allowing the child to imagine him or herself in a new reality.
Once the text has been edited and the illustrations completed, I create a mock-up of what the final book should look like. The illustrations are then sent off for high resolution scanning and the “book” passed on to a graphic designer who lays out the text and illustrations in the way suggested in the mock-up book. At this point, the book is sent backwards and forwards between the designer and myself until the required result is reached.
Writing, illustrating and laying-out such a children’s book from conception to production takes almost a year. It is a journey in itself and I like to be involved in everything from start to finish, even in choosing the paper on which the book is printed.
Such a book journey is similar to most other journeys in life, with countless ups and downs, disappointments and other minor struggles to circumnavigate. However, in the end, holding a copy of your new book is not dissimilar to holding your newborn. Awesome!
(c) Fransie Frandsen
About Do Babies wear Pyjamas?:
The series explores, in a fabulously fun and engaging way, the notion of parent-child communication. Drawing on the writer and illustrator, Fransie Frandsen’s experience as mother and art therapist, the books emphasise the importance of communication between parents and children. Alexander’s Questions is a delightful series of children’s books about an inquisitive boy, called Alexander. In each book he embarks on a mission to find an answer to another puzzling question. Join Alexander in his colourful quests to find the answer to all his puzzling questions. The series currrenty comprises 4 titles: Do Grannies Have Green Fingers? Do Daddies Have Ants In Their Pants? Are Mummies Scared Of Monsters? Do Babies Wear Pyjamas? and a boxset of all 4 titles.
Order your copy online here.