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  • Writer's pictureJessica O'Connor

Fantastic Frankie

It is with incredible joy in my heart that I can announce my debut book as both Author & Illustrator publishes officially this weekend!!

I wrote this story during the first lockdown of March 2020. Work had briefly slowed, whilst the world adjusted to the situation and I thought it was the perfect time to flex my own story telling ideas.

This book is something very close to my heart. Young Frankie is a fox with plenty of style who loves to experiment and play with what they wear. Unfortunately, they begin to realise that not everyone likes the way they dress and experiment; this realisation brings some difficult feelings and experiences for Frankie. Finding their way back to themselves, Frankie discovers their happiness is more important and that they are happiest when they stay true to themselves.

My eldest son has always been a lover of freedom from the "gender norms" of society. Never afraid to wear a dress whilst climbing a tree, or adding a wig to a look to really embrace the character. When he was a toddler he could often be found dressed as a princess and I had to witness grown men unable to manage their own feelings about a little boy in a dress. My son never cared what people thought...until he started school. One day he came home and said some other boys in his class had laughed at him when they were playing dress ups. He had put on a dress and been hit with “dresses are for girls!" My heart broke for him. Where my husband and I had done everything to build our child up, feeling free to enjoy all things; in a heart-beat some child had knocked that confidence and made him doubt the things he enjoyed.

After support and encouragement, eventually, my son found his confidence again (and a way to handle more narrow-minded opinions), but it struck a chord with me. So many children are encouraged to play with toys based on their gender. Babies, dolls, and princesses for girls, diggers, dinosaurs, and heroes for boys.

I am pleased that the stereotyping of children is changing, but it's slow. There are parents and caregivers out there who don't think this limiting and negative way, but from my experiences there are still a fair few who believe such outdated things. Toys have no place to be gendered. I am not saying every boy will want to wear a dress. I have another son who has no interest in dresses whatsoever, but he was always given the freedom to play in whatever way he enjoyed! Toys and a child’s self-expression don't need to be crammed in a box and forced to be anything; all a child needs is to be loved cherished and embraced for who they are.

When children are forced and moulded into something other than themselves, as they grow up, they don't develop that crucial life skill of self-love. We need to encourage children to find joy in whatever they love and tap into the happiness within themselves.

I really hope, as my first book goes out into the world, it helps some children out there. I hope Frankie helps those (like my son) who have doubted themselves, because of others. I hope Frankie resonates with the children who have embraced themselves already; reminding them that they don't have to fit into silly moulds and that they aren’t alone. I hope Frankie helps (in some way) to encourage children to see that happiness grows when there is kindness and acceptance around; both for ourselves and for others. Pick up your feather boa and your builder’s hat. Grab your hammer and tiara. Find the fun and freedom in making your mark on the world and being totally fantastic for being you!

Fantastic Frankie is available is bookshops across the UK on May 1st 2022

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