Oomen Stroomt Over

Francine Oomen is a Dutch writer of mainly children's literature. She is also a designer and illustrator. She is the author of children's book series like 'Saartje en Tommie' (1990-199), 'Sammie Eigenwijs' (1995-2001), 'De Computerheks' (1997-2004), 'Lena Lijstje' (2001-2007) and her bestseller franchise 'Hoe overleef ik...' ('How to survive...', since 1998). The author regularly makes the illustrations for her books as well, but she has also worked with renowned illustrators like Annet Schaap, Dagmar Stam and Philip Hopman. Her books have been translated to many languages, including Korean, German, Czech, Hungarian and Swedish, and were published by Van Holkema & Warendorf, Picollo, Van Goor, The House of Books, Kok and Querido.

She was born in 1960 as Eclaire Francine Marie Oomen in Laren, and then spent parts of her childhood in Eindhoven and Groningen. She studied at the Academy of Industrial Design in Eindhoven, and has subsequently lived in The Hague, Zevenaar and Nuth. As a graphic designer, she developed new types of baby and toddler books. One of her creations is the so-called "crackling book" for babies. The books are made of cloth and make a crackling sound when the pages are turned.

Oomen started writing her own children's books as well. She made her debut with 'Saartje en Tommie op de boerderij' (Van Goor, 1990), the first of many books with these two infants. The 'Saartje en Tommie' series is illustrated by Dagmar Stam. The series became an international success, and was followed by 'Sammie Eigenwijs' (1995), starring a little rabbit, for which Oomen made the illustrations herself. Her next series was 'De Computerheks' (1996), about a modern witch who puts all her magic spells in the computer, with illustrations by Philip Hopman. Francine Oomen has furthermore written new stories based on existing ghome drawings by Dutch painter Rien Poortvliet (1932-1995) for the publishing house Kok.

As her own children grew older, Oomen began to focus on books for older children. Notable are the 'Lena Lijstje' books, about a slightly neurotic girl from Amsterdam who never makes up her mind. Therefore, she makes lists to create order out of the chaos in her head. The first book, 'Lena Lijstje', was published by Van Holkema & Warendorf in 2001. It was followed by 'Het geheim van Lena Lijstje' (Van Holkema & Warendorf, 2003). 'De reis van Lena Lijstje' (Van Holkema & Warendorf, 2007) and 'De droom van Lena Lijstje' (Querido, 2007). Oomen made the illustrations for these books herself.

Oomen is however best-known for the 'Hoe overleef ik?' franchise, which by now consists of a book series, a magazine, guide books, a movie, musicals, a TV series, school merchandise, a board game, and more. The first installment was 'Hoe overleef ik mijn vakantie?' ("How to survive my holiday?") in 1998. The illustrations are made by Annet Schaap. The main stars are a girl called Rosa van Dijk, her friend Jonas de Leeuw and their many friends. The characters grow older with every book, and experience all the troubles one has during puberty. The immense success of the books can be attributed to the humorous way Oomen addresses recognizable situations such as the first kiss, insecurity, divorcing parents and homosexuality.

Hoe overleef ik de brugklas? (Drawings by Annet Schaap)
Hoe overleef ik de brugklas? (Drawings by Annet Schaap)

Rosa's best friend Esther additionally starred in her own books 'Ezzie's Dagboek' (2004) and 'Ezzie's Wereld' (2006). After thirteen books, Oomen started writing about Rosa's adventures as a young adult in the new series 'Rosa & Co'. In the first book, 'Hoe overleeft Rosa New York?' (Querido, 2012), the reader follows the characther's adventures as an au pair in New York. This new series has no interior illustrations. A 'Hoe Overleef Ik' magazine was launched in 2008. It is published by Weekbladpers in cooperation with Querido, and consists of stories with the characters from the book series. The magazine also features articles about puberty and stories submitted by readers. Maaike Hartjes has furthermore contributed comic stories.

By 2012, Oomen suddenly felt tired, depressed and forgetful. She feared she was either suffering from dementia, a cerebral infarction or a burn-out, but none of this was true. It turned out she was actually at the change of life, and that all the symptoms were normal. She decided to turn her experiences in a self-help book called 'Oomen Stroomt Over' (Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 2017). She openly chronicles her initial panic, later denial and eventual acceptance, and combines them with facts and figures about the climacterium. She originally asked Barbara Stok to make the illustrations, but Stok turned down the offer. Oomen then decided to make the illustrations herself, which resulted in a very personal and also humorous graphic novel.


Oomen Stroomt Over

www.francineoomen.nl

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