Minnesota boy illustrates series of children’s books

Published 10:52 am Monday, October 17, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Frank Kamish is a simple fifth-grader. His favorite food is raspberry sorbet. He prefers Samsung to Apple. He loves “The Rockford Files.” Every day before elementary school he slicks his hair back with water and sets it with hairspray.

He also happens to be the illustrator of the “Frank Henry and the Zooband Band” books — a children’s series aimed at teaching the “power of listening.”

The books tackle the topic of listening through the use of “Zoobands” — headbands designed to look like animals. Frank can explain:

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“It was a noisy hullabaloo at the zoo one cool blue day, and all the animals were talkin’ at once. Then, Frank Henry and his band come with the magical horn. He blows the magical horn and Zoobands blow all over the zoo. And it’s set in the Bronx Zoo,” Frank said.

Kamish’s newest book, “Frank Henry and the Zooband Band Go to Washington,” takes a satirical stab at Washington’s partisan politics.

Frank isn’t the only brain behind the “Frank Henry” books. Frank’s uncle, Dave Kamish, colors the books while his father, Paul Kamish, writes the stories. Together, the family makes up Pigs and Pens Publishing.

In response to the upcoming election, Pigs and Pens have made their newest volume available for free on their website, and Frank has a goal to get the book in front of all members of Congress.

This installment in the “Frank Henry” series happens to be Frank’s favorite, too. He has seen a growth in his drawings since he started. Plus, “there’s more fighting, and there’s rhyming.”

“You get these raw lines from (kids). If I were to draw the lines, they would be very predictable. But you get lines from Frank … you’ve got an eyeball over here, it’s got a lot more energy to it,” Dave Kamish said.

Frank’s drawing process is dependent on both his imagination and reality.

“I just look at a picture, and I see what they look like, then I just draw it,” Frank said.

Though Frank’s favorite artist is Leonardo da Vinci, Frank’s gloriously lopsided, wonderfully-skewed drawings are more reminiscent of Salvador Dalí.

Whether it’s artistic realism or schoolyard style, Frank refuses to follow the rules.

“(Other kids) say, ‘Why do you wear jeans?’ They think (my collared shirts) are weird,” Frank said, sporting an orange sweater, blue patterned pants and, la piece de resistance: shiny, Midas-touched high-tops.

“I like H&M, Macy’s and I get some of my clothes from the thrift store,” Frank said. “If you dress bad, it just, to me, it makes me feel better to know that I dress good. Then it’s not messy.”

Though he has lived near Minneapolis for his entire life, Frank’s dreams stretch much further than the Twin Cities.

“We’re not going for the Caldecott or the Newberry Award. We’re going for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Paul said, speaking to the pacifistic nature of the “Frank Henry” books.

However, Frank isn’t just looking to stay in the publishing world — he’s looking as far as Hollywood.

“I’m gonna try doing lots of acting classes. I’ve watched videos from the stars, and they said they’ve started out doing plays and then Nickelodeon,” Frank said.

Frank is mainly interested in taking part in Nickelodeon TV shows like “Henry Danger,” a spy show where he’s found inspiration in young actors such as Jace Norman. Frank is certainly not a novice when it comes to theatrical craft — he had his debut as one of four Sherlock Holmes in a SteppingStone Theatre production.

Frank doesn’t have a “dream role,” he just wants to be the star.

“I would do voice for cartoons. There’s a show called ‘The Loud House,’” Frank said, noting his willingness to move beyond traditional movies and TV shows.

Though spotlights loom, Frank will never forget where he came from.

“I live next to kids I know, and I live next to a park,” Frank said — noting his favorite aspects of his Twin Cities home.

“(Frank’s) not afraid to be a little different. I think sometimes you have to be yourself, and when you’re not doing the same thing as everybody else it can be hard on kids,” Paul said about his son.

Having compiled a more impressive resume than most teenagers in his 10 years, Frank knows the hard work required for any creative process. He thanks his parents for “telling (him) not to give up, and just go with (his) dreams.”

Whether he ends up in a screen adaptation of the “Frank Henry” books or with a starring role in the next Nickelodeon hit, Frank already has his awards ceremony outfit planned out.

“I’m wearing all gold shoes — even the laces, even the bottom. Pants, you know the ones that have holes? Then a shirt with a collar.”

As for advice for those looking to get into the publishing world?

“Just draw and write and put it together. Color it. Then publish it,” Frank said.

“Don’t give up, and go with your dreams.”