Simon, Francesca 1955-
SIMON, Francesca 1955-
PERSONAL: Born February 23, 1955, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Mayo (a writer) and Sondra (a teacher); married Martin Stamp (a computer programmer and analyst), June 22, 1986; children: Joshua. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1977; Oxford University, M.A. (with honors), 1979. Hobbies and other interests: "Reading, playing the violin, playing with my son."
ADDRESSES: Agent—Rosemary Sandberg, 6 Bayley St., London WC1B 3HB, England.
CAREER: Freelance journalist, 1980-93; writer of children's books, 1992—.
MEMBER: Trollope Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Petits Filous Gold Award, 1996, for Rosie's Swing; South Lanarkshire Libraries Children's Book Award, 1997, for Horrid Henry's Nits; Stockport (England) Schools Book Award, 1997, for Spider School; Premio Verghereto, 1999, for Italian translation of Big Class, Little Class.
(With Nigel McMullen) Papa Forgot, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Nigel McMullen) Whoops-a-Daisy, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Fiona Dunbar) Rosie's Swing, Hazar Publishing (London, England), 1994.
But What Does the Hippopotamus Say?, illustrated by Helen Floate, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1994.
Higgledy Piggledy: The Hen Who Loved to Dance, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
The Topsy-Turvies, illustrated by Keren Ludlow, Dial Books for Young Readers, 1996.
Café at the Edge of the Moon, illustrated by Keren Ludlow, Orion (London, England), 1996.
Spider School, illustrated by Peta Coplans, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1996.
What's That Noise?, illustrated by David Melling, Barron's Educational Series (Hauppauge, NY), 1996.
Fussy Frieda, Gullane (London, England), 1997.
Moo Baa Baa Quack: Seven Farmyard Stories, illustrated by Emily Bolam, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.
Camels Don't Ski, illustrated by Ailie Busby, Sterling Publications, 1998.
Where Are You?, illustrated by David Melling, Peachtree Publishing, 1998.
Toddler Time, illustrated by Susan Winter, Orion Orion (London, England), 1998, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Calling All Toddlers, illustrated by Susan Winter, Orchard Books, 1999.
Hugo and the Bullyfrogs, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church, David & Charles (London, England), 1999.
Don't Wake the Baby Danish, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.
Helping Hercules, Orion (London, England), 1999.
When the Moon Comes Out, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Miaow Miaow Bow Wow, Orion (London, England), 2000.
Three Cheers for Ostrich!, illustrated by Neal Layton, Gullane (London, England), 2001.
Adventures of Harry, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2004.
Don't Cook Cinderella, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2005.
Also author of Big Class, Little Class, 1996.
"horrid henry" series
Horrid Henry's Nits, illustrated by Tony Ross, Dolphin (London, England), 1994, published as Horrid Henry's Head Lice, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
Horrid Henry, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 1994, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.
Horrid Henry and the Secret Club, illustrated by Tony Ross, Dolphin (London, England), 1996.
Horrid Henry and the Tooth Fairy, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 1996.
Horrid Henry Strikes It Rich, illustrated by Tony Ross, Dolphin (London, England), 1998, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
A Handful of Horrid Henry, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2000.
Horrid Henry's Haunted House, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 1999.
Don't Be Horrid, Henry, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2000.
A Helping of Horrid Henry, Orion (London, England), 2001.
Horrid Henry and the Bogey Babysitter, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2002.
Horrid Henry's Revenge, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2001.
Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2002.
Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2002.
A Triple Treat of Horrid Henry, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2003.
Horrid Henry Meets the Queen, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Horrid Henry Joke Book, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Horrid Henry's Big Bad Book, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orion (London, England), 2004.
"little yellow dog" series
Little Yellow Dog, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Little Yellow Dog Says Look at Me, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Little Yellow Dog Bites the Builder, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Little Yellow Dog Gets a Shock, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Contributor of articles to magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Parents' magazine.
Simon's books have been translated into several languages, including Italian and Spanish.
SIDELIGHTS: The creator of the popular "Horrid Henry" book series for young readers, Francesca Simon writes for children from preschool to the early elementary grades. While her books about troublesome Henry and the chaos he causes have won her fans around the world, Simon has also penned a number of books in a kinder, gentler tone. In Three Cheers for Ostrich, for example, she tells the story about an animal that has a hard time finding out his special talent, while Hugo and the Bully Frogs presents a lesson on bullying through its story of a small frog who learns to assert himself through a loud and surprising sound. Praising the story in the Manchester Guardian, Alexandra Strick called Simon's book a "gentle, lighthearted tale" that gives children with bullies of their own a new alternative.
Numbering over a dozen volumes, the series Simon introduced with Horrid Henry focuses on a boy whose bad behavior is a stark contrast to that of his brother, Perfect Peter. In fact, Henry lives for trouble, and the trail of wreckage he creates can be tracked in books such as Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy, Horrid Henry's Nits, and Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb. In the fifth book of the series, Horrid Henry Strikes It Rich, Henry manages to accomplish his ultimate aim: he sells his brother. "Simon lays bare the sibling rivalry that really fuels the nuclear family," explained Guardian contributor Dina Rabinovitch. "Horrid Henry hates his brother, Perfect Peter, as only siblings know how." As Cherie Gladstone noted in the School Librarian, the wily Henry seems to win in all situations with "anarchic humour and … glee." Nicolette Jones wrote in the Sunday Times Bookshop that Simon has written the stories "with rhetorical flair … best of all, they are funny."
Simon's more serene works include But What Does the Hippopotamus Say? which focuses on the sounds animals make and includes a noisy hippo, yak, giraffe, and kangaroo, along with the traditional cast of animal characters: cat, pig, and sheep, whose sounds are familiar. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews said Simon gives children "a feeling of accomplishment by including them." Linda Wicher, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, called But What Does the Hippopotamus Say? an "off-beat offering."
In Café at the Edge of the Moon Janey daydreams her way to a moon eatery where she eats dessert first, pours ketchup on her fruit, and generally enjoys a world without parents and rules. A reviewer for the Junior Bookshelf said young children with older or younger brothers "or rather fussy parents—will understand Janey's frustrations." Ann Treneman, reviewing the book in the Times Educational Supplement, called Janey "a wild sort of child" who would be a friend for her own six-year-old.
Kate wakes up on the wrong side of the bed in Spider School. Although she prepared for the first day of school, she cannot find her new clothes, and she is forced to wear last year's, which are too small and dirty. Late, she runs to the new school to find a dungeon-like classroom ruled by a gorilla teacher wearing pearls. There are no books, and the other kids are zombies. When spiders are served in the cafeteria, Kate leads a revolt. Fortunately, she awakes from her nightmare, and realizes it is all a dream. Janet Sumner wrote in the School Librarian that she would expect to find Spider School among the books "of the nightmare school rather than the real one." School Library Journal reviewer Lisa S. Murphy called the book "an enjoyable story for children who have already had a positive school experience—preschoolers may have serious qualms!" "The lesson about the value of a positive attitude gains force by the mildness of its delivery," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
The Topsy-Turvies are a 1960s-style family who live life upside down, sleeping in the kitchen, dining in the bedroom, sleeping during the day, and waking at midnight to pursue their activities in their pajamas. When a neighbor asks them to babysit, they oblige and rearrange her house according to their own style. "But after Simon … finishes her introductions, she runs out of ideas," said a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "She resorts to a time-tested plot device, a burglar." The burglary attempt is foiled, which excuses the chaos the Topsy-Turvies have created in the household. "Simon's delightful story is told with sophisticated, genuine humor, a superb mix of good intentions and sheer outrageousness," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic. Annabel Gibb, in reviewing The Topsy-Turvies for Books for Keeps, felt it "provides good material for discussion of convention and difference."
Simon told CA: "I started writing children's books in 1989 after the birth of my son, Joshua. Suddenly all I was reading was books for children, and I started, to my surprise, to get ideas. I wrote my first story when Joshua was four weeks old. I sent it off to a publisher and promptly received a scathing reply. They not only hated the story, but clearly thought a warped mind had produced it. I stopped writing immediately.
"One day, however, when my son was a year and a half and we'd been reading a lot of animal noise books, he asked me what noise a caterpillar made. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be a great idea to do an animal noise book based on all the unusual animals kids see in books, like yaks and camels and giraffes?' That became my first book, But What Does the Hippopotamus Say?
"All my ideas start from similar small incidents, often sparked off by Joshua. For example, one of my favourite picture books, The Topsy-Turvies, is about an upside-down family who eat with their feet, draw on walls not on paper, sleep in their clothes and wear pyjamas outside. This grew out of a game I played with Josh called the 'no' game where I would forbid him to sit in a chair, go down a slide, or eat with a fork.
"I have quite an impish sense of humour, a good memory for childhood emotions, and a logical mind, which I've discovered are useful qualities for a children's author. But I'm also aware that if Josh hadn't asked me about caterpillar noises I never would have found that out."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2000, Kathy Broderick, review of Toddler Time, p. 1675.
Books for Keeps, September, 1997, p. 20; September, 1998, p. 20.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 30, 2000, Alexandra Strick, review of Hugo and the Bully Frogs, p. 63; September 19, 2001, Dina Rabinovitch, "Parents: Hooray for Henry: Forget Goody Two-Shoes Harry Potter," p. 11; April 16, 2005, Julia Eccleshare, review of Don't Cook Cinderella, p. 33.
Horn Book Guide, spring, 1995, p. 22; fall, 1996, p. 276; spring, 1997, p. 48.
Junior Bookshelf, October, 1996, p. 188; December, 1996, p. 240.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1994, p. 1281; May 1, 1996, p. 693; January 15, 1999; October 15, 2001, review of Three Cheers for Ostrich, p. 1493.
Magpies, July, 1996, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 1996, p. 99; September 9, 1996, p. 83; January 11, 1999, p. 70, 72; December 20, 1999, review of Hugo and the Bully Frogs, p. 79.
School Librarian, November, 1994, pp. 147, 154; August, 1996, p. 100; November, 1996, p. 147.
School Library Journal, February, 1995, p. 82; July, 1996, p. 73; September, 1996, p. 191; March, 2000, Olga R. Barnes, review of Hugo and the Bully Frogs, p. 212; May, 2000, Shielah Kosco, review of Toddler Time, p. 164; March, 2001, Pat Leach, review of Horrid Henry's Head Lice, p. 220.
Sunday Times Bookshop, June 21, 1998.
Times Educational Supplement, March 21, 1997.
Francesca Simon Home Page, http://www.francescasimon.com (May 20, 2005).