"The Giant Alexander is as high as one telegraph pole on top of another. He uses a red tablecloth for a handkerchief and drinks cocoa from a bucket.  Very kind and generous (though he looks rather fierce), he’s forever helping people and doing useful things."

The Writer

Frank Herrmann was born in Germany in 1927. Frank’s father, an architect, was prohibited from working in 1935 because his mother had been Jewish. The family eventually decided to leave Germany, settling in London in the summer of 1937.  Frank developed an interest in writing and journalism while studying at Oxford University, and eventually abandoned his science degree to follow a career in publishing. In January 1947, Frank joined the production department of Faber & Faber.

During a long and successful career in publishing, Frank was responsible for bringing the well-loved Miffy books by Dick Bruna to a UK audience. He spotted Dick Bruna’s work at a bookfair in Frankfurt, and persuaded Methuen to publish the books in the UK. He also became good friends with E.H. Shepard, illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.

As well as writing The Giant Alexander series for children, Frank has written several books on the history of art and antique collecting, inspired by his personal interest in the subject.

In 2010, Frank donated his archive relating to The Giant Alexander books to Seven Stories.


The Giant Alexander began life as a bedtime story which Frank Herrmann told to his own children. Frank used to make up stories for his children about all sorts of interesting characters, including Mrs Purplespots, a green pigeon with purple spots, and the Giant Alexander.

Alexander was 60 feet tall, but not at all terrifying. Although he lived in Maldon, Essex (the same town where Frank and his family lived), he travelled widely, and had lots of unusual adventures. Eventually, the children’s editor at Methuen, the publishing company where Frank worked, suggested he turn Alexander into a children’s book. So The Giant Alexander was published in 1964, and three further books about Alexander followed.

By the end of the 1980s there were over 600,000 Alexander books in print in various editions. The stories were published in the UK, America, Europe and elsewhere in the world.  Although the books are no longer in print, Frank regularly meets people who remember Alexander from their own childhood.

The Illustrator

The Giant Alexander books were illustrated by George Him (1900-1982).  George was born and raised in Poland. After studying at the Leipzig Academy for Graphic Art and Book Industry, he began working as a graphic designer in 1922. He worked first in Germany, then Poland, and eventually moved to England in 1937.

During the Second World War, George produced posters for the Ministry of Information, the Post Office, and the Ministry of Food, as well as working for the Polish and Dutch governments in exile. He also worked widely in advertising, including campaigns for American Overseas Airlines and Schweppes, as well as illustrating a number of books for adults and children.

As well as working with Frank Herrmann, George also illustrated a collected book of folk tales written by Leila Berg. Leila’s archive is also held at Seven Stories, and it contains several letters from George.

A Partnership - in Frank's Own Words

"[George] had a brilliant mind and a wonderful vein of fun.  His style of drawing was realistic, shot through with a strong sense of humour.  He had achieved a very considerable reputation and was well known throughout the graphic world.  We could not have been less alike but we got on like a house on fire.  George's sample sketch of Alexander was exactly as I imagined him, and so was forged a partnership which gave us both unalloyed pleasure for fifteen years.  George took infinite trouble over detail and getting it right." Low Profile by Frank Herrmann (The Plough Press, 2002), p. 133