Fanny by Jacqueline Probert
Nelson Bloncourt & Fanny
Once upon a time there was a dog named Fanny. A French bulldog who was known on the streets of San Francisco. She was companion to Nelson Bloncourt and together they lived in the hills. As time went on Fanny became Bloncourt’s muse, inspiring the publication of a children’s book called Fanny the Flying Bulldog, with delightful illustrations by Nikita Polyansky (Glitterati Incorporated).
A heartwarming tale about family and home, Fanny goes on a journey, in search of her mother. Her big ears take her through the skies, on a marvelous adventure with a circus. Fanny comes full circle, finding herself back where she began, and where she belongs. The story is beautifully produced, with a deluxe presentation with two gatefolds and a ribbon marker. Nelson Bloncourt speaks with The Chic of his own journey into the magical world of children’s books.
Bloncourt recalls, “I have always enjoyed writing and took a couple creative writing classes at the new School in New York, many years ago. I never really considered myself a writer because I always believed that a writer wrote all the time. Truth is, my process is primarily in my head. I don’t sit to write a whole lot. Generally by the time I sit, the piece is pretty much written, it becomes almost like dictation. I recently did find a rough manuscript and even a few illustrations for a children’s story I had written an eternity ago. I never did anything with it.
“Fanny the Flying French Bulldog was a thought that came to me about six years ago. Unlike the process I describe above, this story almost felt channelled, if you will. I thought about it a few times and one day I sat down and it literally spilled from me. I wrote it in an hour or so and then put it away for several years.
“The draft I later sent to Glitterati Incorporated publisher Marta Hallett was the one and only draft I wrote. No doubt, my own dog Fanny was my absolute inspiration but as one of the children I read to at one of the schools I have visited understood, the story, in a sense, is autobiographical. He, the student, a very astute 3rd grader astounded me in several ways with this question: ‘Was Fanny the vehicle here for your own story?’ I thought, WOW. This from a third grader, in those words? Since then ‘children of all ages’ have deduced that it is my own personal story. Here I must thank my editor, Leslie Budnick, for having treated my words with such care and integrity. I am not sure that she was aware that I was telling a chapter of my own life in this book but she handled me and the process gently, especially during the period of Fanny’s departure.
“Fanny was, is, the love of my life. Amazing that I can profoundly and completely say that about her. She was not merely a dog. She was and, again, is, a Bodhisattva…my Buddha in the body of a chubby little Frenchie. Interestingly many people who met and observed her for the first time often used those very same words (I do live in California.)
“She carried a calm, gentle, stoic, and all embracing spirit within and all about her, and at the same time made me laugh when I was at the verge of tears. She was beside me during some of the most enormous life passages and saw me through them. The loss of both my parents, illness, loss of friendships. She not only got me through but inspired me to be bigger than myself. As she was. I have loved in my life. My family, friends, lovers. But I never have loved as much and learned more about love than with and through her. The loss of her was, also, the greatest loss of my life, But as a Buddha she lives on. The book is testament to that.
“She was the most self-assured little creature I have ever encountered. People saw that in her. When I brought her home on that Christmas morning she settled in immediately. The next day, I was back to work at my retail store where she became the object of many people’s obsessions. At that time she was one of only two Frenchies here in San Francisco. Many people would ask ‘what’ she was when we walked along the street. Most had never seen the breed and of course, she was stunningly beautiful. Her breeder insisted that I show her but I refused. Meanwhile she had endless fans as both my store and she had a following. So much so, that often people driving by us on our walks would call out from their vehicles, ‘Hey, there’s Fanny.’ And then there were the magazine and news articles that mentioned her. And the portraits. And the parties.
”The spirit of Fanny is alive and well in the pages of the book, as Nikita Polyansky’s vision of her adventures take on a charming, candy-colored world where she lives forever more. It is into the hearts of children that Fanny soars off the pages of the book.
Bloncourt notes, “For as long as I can remember, I have loved and collected books. As a child I was surrounded by stacks of them, although it was much later that I began to read the children’s classics. When I was about 30, I started collecting children’s books again and was mesmerized by the life lessons taught within them. Dr. Seuss, in particular, speaks to me deeply. Some years back a dear friend gave birth to her first child and, as a gift, I gave her the entire collection. It felt as if I was passing on one my greatest treasures.
"I have never had the enormous gift and responsibility of parenting a child but I do know that authors of children’s books have the opportunity to share stories that touch the imaginations of their readers in a way that can inspire them. Not only to expand their thoughts and their worlds mentally and emotionally, but also exposing them to the magical and transforming world of illustration and art. It is generally, I believe, a child’s first step into the visual arts.
“The act of a parent reading to their children is as important as feeding, clothing and protecting them. It is a time of bonding; sharing of ideas and thoughts; and creating the world the parent wants for their child.”
Indeed it is with the book that many imaginations first take hold, with the pictures and words shared across generations. And it is inside these magical objects anything exists, including a petite French bulldog named Fanny who could fly with her ears.
Of Fanny’s remarkable gift, Bloncourt observes, “Who has not dreamed of flying, literally? It is a dream, a desire. Not only children can relate to that. I had recurring dreams of being in flight over cities and bodies of water for many years, I actually long for them. (Except the one’s where I landed in crowds being the only naked person there.
“There is that, but I believe it goes deeper. We have all missed our moms. First day being left at school. The days she would go to work or on a trip. And later, flying the coop to go to college or get married. No matter what, we are always Mom’s little kids and regardless of what age and whatever the experience…Mom is the one and only. I heard about a little boy who, upon hearing the story, broke down in tears because he was upset that Fanny left her mom and flew away. I wonder what in his life sparked such a reaction. Meanwhile, it seems it has become the last book he wants read to him every night.
“Nikita Polyansky did an outstanding job bringing the visuals to life. Everyone has been transported and mesmerized by his dreamy imagery and the beauty of his watercolors, one of the most difficult mediums to master, I believe. He illustrated the story to its best and included imagery that encourages children to discover more and expand on their own ideas of what the story means to them. I look forward to seeing the next story come to life. I think I have given him material that will enable him to create an even greater visual feast. Being such a visual being and so close to the story, I saw exactly what I thought the book should look like. Once I let go, knowing that no one but myself could possibly make those images real and being unable to draw a squiggle, I realized that he went beyond and made the story even greater. I am grateful to him.”
Indeed, it is the triumvirate of Bloncourt, Polyansky, and Hallett that bring Fanny the Flying Bulldog to life in a way by which she lives forevermore. The children’s book appeals to all who love the art of illustrated books, and the act of storytelling. Great children’s books are timeless, for they have that je ne sais quoi that transcends the ephemera and transports into the eternal. The act of reading to a child, or inviting them to experience reading for themselves, is chic. It is the art of living.
Bloncourt reveals, “I always considered Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Yves Saint Laurent, Bunny Mellon, and the likes of them, to not only be, but live chic. Indeed they did, being the ultimate, but I have discovered that chic for me is so much more than fine clothes, stunning libraries, classy vehicles, and a beautiful rose champagne. I see chic in nature. The magnificent design of a flower. The remarkable sheen of a horse’s mane. A leopard’s coat. A butterfly’s wings. I see it daily in people walking down the street, someone driving the car next to mine, or the lady seated in the streetcar. It’s not in the label or the brand. It’s in an attitude. How one holds a tea cup. How a scarf is worn. How one carries oneself . This is the chic that matters to me.”Links