The Flamingo Differential

Images: Fred Flamingo (a flamingo with a black bow tie) and Freda Flamingo (a flamingo with a purple ribbon and flower around her neck.  Seperate image: Ferdinand Flamingo. A flamingo with a monacle. Text: I ran into the problem of how to differentiate flamingos.

The Flamingo Differential

Blog post by Iris Carden

Fred Flamingo was the first children’s book I wrote.  It was based on one of the many stories I made up for my (now adult) kids when they were kids.

My older daughter always loved Fred and especially wanted his story published.

I had already published a couple of books for adults, and writing was no problem.  Publishing wasn’t going to be a problem.

Sadly, children’s books require artwork.

I am a much better writer than artist, but hiring an artist required money I didn’t have.  

So I started out with watercolour pencils and paint.  After all, how difficult can a flamingo be? It’s just a football shape for a body, a smaller football ball shape for a head, a long neck, and long gangly sticks for legs.

The next problem was how to differentiate between flamingos.  We don’t get flamingos in Australia, but I’ve seen them in zoos.  I couldn’t tell one flamingo apart from another.

Four Flamingos, seen through a tree, in a zoo.
I’ve seen flamingos in zoos. I couldn’t tell them apart.

Eventually, I decided in a minimal amount of human clothing to tell the key characters apart.

I decided Fred should be a fairly dapper kind of flamingo, and gave him a bow tie.

Freda, who is a total sweetheart, and likes to help her friends, got a flower tied around her neck with a ribbon.

Then there was the very snooty character of Ferdinand.  Eventually, I decided a monacle would indicate someone snooty who looked down on others around him.  (I realise that’s looking at a monacle as a class indicator rather than as an assistance aid, which is patently untrue. However, it is a stereotype I have in my mind.)

So if you look at Fred Flamingo Wants to Dance and wonder why the bow tie, flower and monacle, it’s because I’m a terrible artist who couldn’t find any other way to make flamingos look any different from each other.

If there’s an advantage to being a bad artist in this case, it’s that I’ve had feedback about kids being excited that they could draw that, and could do their own pictures of the characters.

Fred Flamingo Wants to Dance is available from your favourite online bookshop or from


By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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