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FRANE LESSAC

BIOGRAPHY I BOOKS I PRESENTATIONS I BOOK ORDERING

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Frané Lessac loves to travel and to work on books based on her worldwide journeys. "I try to portray the people and places of these countries to children in a sensitive, accurate, and educational way."


Attracted by the beauty of Montserrat, she moved in 1978 to the small Caribbean island, which inspired My Little Island (HarperCollins). The first of many books written by Ms. Lessac, My Little Island was named a Children's Book of the Year by the Library of Congress.


Ms. Lessac has contributed her distinctive paintings to several other critically acclaimed children's picture books, including Caribbean Canvas (Boyds Mills Press), featuring her selections of works by well-known West Indian poets; and Not a Copper Penny in Me House: Poems from the Caribbean (Boyds Mills Press), written by Monica Gunning. Her latest books include New York New York -The Big Apple from A-Z (Harpercollins), Island Counting 1-2-3 (Candlewick), and Monday on the Mississippi (Holt).
Her numerous children's books have been translated into a variety of different languages.

 
A number of her paintings are part of private collections worldwide, and she has exhibited her work in international galleries. She studied at the New School for Social Research in New York City, the University of Southern California, and she
studied Ethnographic Film at UCLA in California.

In 2010, Frané Lessac was awarded The Muriel Barwell Award for Distinguished Service to Children's Literature. She joined the National Year of Reading 2012 initiative as an ambassador for Western Australia.


Frané Lessac is married to children's author Mark Greenwood, and they have two children, son Luke and daughter Cody. Ms. Lessac is the Asst. Region
al Adviser for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in West Australia. Ms. Lessac divides her time between southwestern Australia and New Jersey. During the school year, she conducts presentations for students in American elementary schools and high schoosl as well as for adults.

IN HER OWN WORDS:

 

(From "The Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators 2000," edited by Connie Rockman)

 

I grew up in a small town on top of the Palisades in New Jersey. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline of New York City. In the hot summer months I could hear the shrieks of people riding on the roller coaster at a nearby amusement park.

As a child, I always wanted to be an artist or a veterinarian. By the time I was eight years old I had cats, dogs, fish, snakes, and a pet monkey named Hercules that used to sit on my shoulder. Hercules stank and had fleas and my mom finally said "either you or that monkey has to go." I spent many weekends in New York City browsing through museums and galleries. I liked to explore New York's Greenwich Village with my green snake entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.

My father's cousin was the great writer and optimist Norman Cousins. Our Thanksgiving dinners were like United Nations meetings. I was surrounded by people of many different cultures and since been drawn towards people from around the world.

At eighteen, I headed for film school in California. My aim: to eventually make films about 'primitive' tribes before they were swamped by western culture. I borrowed camera equipment and, given film, took off on the road to the southwest, documenting a rodeo team, a long distance trucker, and even the birth of a baby. Home was a beach house in Malibu furnished with the discarded furniture of movie stars. We had Flip Wilson's lawn chairs and Barbra Streisand's settee. I worked hard to help finance my studies. My jobs included running the projector at the local Malibu cinema, chauffeuring the residents of Beverly Hills, and fertilizing cactus with a silver spoon at a desert nursery.

I moved from California to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat in 1978. Stunned by its visual beauty, I concentrated on painting the old-style West Indian architecture and its people. I lived on the island during its music glory years when Sting, Elton John, Arrow and others were recording at George Martin's Air Studios. Visiting rock stars and tourists began to buy my paintings.

 

Wanting to publish a children's picture book about Montserrat, I moved to London in 1982 to be closer to publishers. I approached thirty publishers before one finally accepted the idea and the book was released as The Little Island in 1984 in the United Kingdom. Six months later, it was published in the United States as My Little Island and became a Reading Rainbow feature book and has now sold over 300,000 copies.

My work has led me on many adventures in numerous countries. Traveling continues to be a major source of inspiration for my work as I render my impression of a country and its way of life in oil and gouache paintings. My greatest ambition is to instill pride and self-esteem in children about their unique heritage and their own ability to capture in it pictures and words.