'In books, I can become all that I imagined as a child'

As a child, I always wanted to be an artist, archaeologist or a veterinarian,” says Frane Lessac, who today is an established author and illustrator with over 35 children's books published throughout the world.

With an aim to instill pride in children about their unique heritage and their own ability to capture it in pictures and words, Frane recently visited India during Bookaroo (the only children's literature festival in India). But this wasn’t her first trip here! Metrolife enquires more about the writer’s Indian connection. 

“At 18, I headed for film school in California with the aim to eventually make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by Western culture.

It was when I moved to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat in 1978, the visual beauty of the place stunned me and I concentrated on painting the old-style West Indian architecture and its people.

I then wanted to publish a picture book about Montserrat and hence moved to London in 1982 to be closer to publishers. And in books, I can become all that I imagined as a child,” she smiles.

Visiting India for the fourth time, Frane gets nostalgic about her maiden visit, “My first trip to India was in early 80s when I was researching a book on children in a small village of Rajasthan. After a month’s travel, the research gave way to a picture book The Bird Who was an Elephant which was published in Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu and Punjabi. Since then I always felt the urge to come back to this country and I did so, when three years ago I visited Udaipur with my husband, also an author.”

During her last trip, Frane traveled to Chandigarh, Kolkata and Delhi and interacted with almost 10,000 children and she simply enjoyed sharing her art with them. “My kind of art is a naive art where children create themselves naturally as it appeals to them. I like to share stories from all parts of the world with children who then capture them in pictures which creates books!"

“All love a good story," she shares about kids across the globe, "I narrated stories based in Australia, Africa and others and all engaged children. They especially felt proud when they saw pictures of their own country in the stories!"

But what amazed her the most was when, “A nine-year old girl reacted to one of my stories and said that while listening to my work she felt that she was walking through emotions! Children, at times, ask questions which make me analyse more about their psyche.”   

Having won The Muriel Barwell Award for distinguished service to Children’s Literature, Frane feels, “It is important to hang on to our heritage. And children here in India are very respectful. They have beautiful manners which shows how grounded they are. This self-esteem also helps them in exploring the world through their imagination.”

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