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Stories, pictures and pets

Frane Lessac at the Oxford Bookstore. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)

She was brimming with energy and full of fun as she taught children how to create their own picture books. In between the “lessons”, America-born children’s author Frane Lessac read out from her books and shared anecdotes about her pets at Oxford Bookstore recently.

Invited by the Australia-India Council in association with Oz Fest, Lessac attended a two-hour workshop and interacted with young readers. “This is my fourth visit to India, but my first to Calcutta and I am loving it. Kids are the same everywhere and I connect with them instantly,” said the author. True to her word, Lessac had the children engrossed in no time.

Lessac told the participants — 26 children from Modern High School for Girls, La Martiniere for Girls, Apeejay School and several other city schools — how she was never the best artist in class as a child but always loved to paint and read. “I wanted to become an astronaut or a vet then,” she said.

The author went on to tell the kids about her pet snakes, monkey Hercules (who had to be given away) and how her father once brought home a baby camel when all she wanted was a pup. The author’s love for animals, especially her pet cat, has found expression in many of her books. She has 35 to her credit, some only as an illustrator.

Lessac taught the children how to draw the donkey from Simpson and his Donkey. She shared with them how her first book saw the light of day after rounds of 30 publishers. My Little Island is about the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where the author had lived for a while. Inspired by its beauty, Lessac decided to create a picture book on it. And thus began her journey as a writer and illustrator.

Lessac encouraged the children to come up with their own books. “You might want to make a book with a friend,” she suggested.

As she spoke about her books, Lessac read out a few excerpts. Storytelling over, it was time for the kids to draw and create their own imaginary world.

Pretty in pink, Tejesi Pujlia of Apeejay School, Park Street, was happy to attend the workshop. “It was interesting and very different,” she gushed. The author also attended interactive sessions at La Martiniere for Boys, Apeejay School, Salt Lake, Birla High School and The Heritage School and took part in a panel discussion at MP Birla Planetarium.

Around 100 middle school students attended the session at The Heritage School. “It was an enriching experience for both the students and me. I always thought that you have a story first and then you illustrate. But Lessac did just the opposite,” said Seema Sapru, principal, The Heritage School.