Books by Paul O. Zelinsky

Released: Sept. 11, 2018

"Share this joyous holiday tale of a Jewish immigrant family all year long. (glossary, author's note, illustrator's note, link to latke recipe, sources) (Picture book. 3-7)"
The first night of Hanukkah brings initial disappointment but finally great happiness to the youngest of the family. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 22, 2015

"Snow never left you feeling warmer inside. (Picture book. 2-6)"
Three toys make their way out into their first snow. Read full book review >
CIRCLE, SQUARE, MOOSE by Kelly Bingham
Released: Sept. 23, 2014

"Hilarious fun. (Picture book. 4-6)"
Moose is back! Hooray—unless you are a book about circles and squares. Read full book review >
Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham
Released: March 1, 2012

"Just label it F for funny. (Picture book. 4-6)"
A wry twist on an alphabet story makes for laugh-out-loud fun. Read full book review >
EARWIG AND THE WITCH by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Feb. 1, 2012

"Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era's end. (Fantasy. 7-9)"
A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones' last, posthumous offering. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 13, 2011

"This enjoyable trio deserves its rightful place away from the confines of any toy chest. (Fantasy. 6-9)"
Who could imagine the introduction of a self-conscious stingray could lead to such great things? Read full book review >
DUST DEVIL by Anne Isaacs
Released: Sept. 14, 2010

Isaacs and Zelinsky tell an even taller tale about Angelica Longrider, the outsized heroine of their hilarious, Caldecott Honor-winning Swamp Angel. Having outgrown Tennessee, Angel moves to roomy Montana, where she faces a wild dust-devil horse and a bandit named Backward Bart, born so ugly that his mother rolled him around backwards in his stroller. He walked, spoke and robbed backward ever since. Bart's garbled threats remain funny even after several readings. "Cash your gimme!" just doesn't get old. Side-splitting similes abound as well; Bart's nefarious cronies are "pricklier than porcupines in a cactus patch." Singsongy, colloquial narration guides readers from predicament to outlandish predicament with humor and folksy charm. Angel's antics, pictured in oval and rectangular panels and surrounded by rippling wood grains, neatly explain the topography of the West in traditional folk-story fashion (wrestling the bucking bronco, Angel's feet drag across the ground, creating the Grand Canyon). Zelinsky's rustic oil illustrations offer a gallery of comic faces, frozen in exaggerated surprise, shock and frustration. Artfully crude, comedic artwork, friendly, understated narration and a wildly hyperbolic story combine to create a new classic. (Picture book. 4-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 2008

Even more tender than its predecessor, these six related stories skillfully capture the bittersweet challenges of childhood independence. Initially featured in Jenkins and Zelinsky's Toys Go Out (2006), this collection stars winsome stuffed buffalo Lumpy, endearing rubber ball Plastic and vulnerable dry-clean-only StingRay. Witty dialogue and humorous scenes enhance these well-developed characters, as the friends realize their cherished girl's growing fondness for Barbies and sleepovers takes precedence over her once-favored toys. Stories center on the new chewing-obsessed toy shark, Spark, who receives quite the unusual welcome, the perilous health of Dryer, unexpected basement parties and the toys' unfortunate experimentation with nail polish. Zelinsky's superlative black-and-white drawings never fail to bring warmth and depth to these chapters. The girl, not completely grown, occasionally still finds comfort with her toys; StingRay wisely notes that she will love them "forever but not as much." Fortunately, StingRay's statement rings false when describing this winning work, whose original fans should enjoy this entry as much as the first. Poignant and compelling, this sequel sparkles. (Fantasy. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

What if a family of five kitchen magnets were marooned in the fridge with only their cardboard box for warmth? Manushkin's sparkling mix of folkloric repetition, funny dialogue and—"PHOOMPH!!!"—perfectly chosen sound effects, cleverly withholds its punch line till the end. All day, the Shivers face predictable but rattling events: quaking rumbles, blazes of light, "monsters" that "reached out, reached out" to snatch away bits of the foodscape. One by one, each Shiver—by design or accident—is whisked off to an uncertain fate. (In a hilarious union of art and text, Mama cavorts in warm Emerald Lake—only to stick fast as the gelatin sets: "Emerald Lake, Jolly Whip—and MAMA!—were gone.") The antic mixed media spreads hum: Compositions agreeably evoke Paul Galdone with fresh, original garnishes. Zelinsky runs with the authorial metaphor, depicting the fridge contents as a skewed, teeming village—where a milk carton's top is a pitched roof, and broccoli's a tree. From endpapers on, hidden visual clues hint at the Shivers' magnetic personalities. Cool ingredients for read-aloud laughs. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 12, 2006

A little girl has three toys who are best friends: Stingray, a stuffed stingray who claims to know it all, Lumphy; a daring and curious stuffed buffalo; and Plastic, a bouncing, red toy who has yet to find out her true identity. The three toys love the little girl, and life in her bedroom is fine and—usually— predictable, but when the toys go out into the wide world outside, almost anything can happen. Six stories, accompanied by Zelinsky's lively black-and-white illustrations, tell of their escapades and discoveries, including an eventful trip to the beach, the development of an intimate knowledge of the washing machine, the pitfalls of sleeping atop the bed and an understanding of the importance of birthdays. A blend of Toy Story and the stories of Johnny Gruelle and A.A. Milne, this is a solid collection that will serve as a good read-aloud, as well as a nice choice for young readers, who will enjoy exploring the warm, secret world of toys. (Fiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
DOODLER DOODLING by Rita Golden Gelman
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

A bored little girl doodles some "teachers teaching"—then flying fliers, fliers teaching, teachers flying, teachers teaching flying fliers, and (with great glee) fliers flying teachers (a goggled and helmeted pilot steers a very alarmed, very matronly teacher). Painters, climbers, throwers, huggers, bakers, and mowers join the teachers and the flyers, the ballpoint doodles flying, climbing, and mowing by turns their way off the lined paper the little girl (depicted in loose watercolors) uses as her canvas. The combinations increase in verve and zaniness until a double-page foldout ("Painters hugging bakers climbing throwers painting huggers mowing fliers throwing climbers flying mowers baking teachers teaching") hopelessly and happily entangles doers and done-tos, and the little girl proudly holds up her finished doodle: "WOW!" Zelinsky—is there no limit to his inventiveness?—milks the 21-word text for all it's worth, investing his line doodles with enormous energy and humor, literally depicting the actions described: an earnest baker prepares a cookie sheet full of people pushing lawnmowers, for instance. A happy paean to the possibilities of the confluence of boredom and imagination. (Picture book. 5+)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

Lightning can strike twice: 12 years after Wheels on the Bus (1990), Zelinsky offers another pop-up tour de force, infused with humor and replete with astonishing special effects. Rather than huge, explosive constructs à la Robert Sabuda, Zelinsky and his paper engineer have gone for restrained, natural-looking, often multiple movements; as a child rises, dresses, and steps out of his house, the verses of the counting song are acted out on him by a succession of gnomish figures hiding beneath flaps, whisking across cutout windows, or popping out of slots. Some tabs control several actions at once—most notably on the penultimate spread, which not only contains an inventive reprise of the song, but sends all ten of the little old men, plus assorted dogs, rolling separately down a hill with a single pull. In a brilliant final flourish, each little old man literally "plays" his assigned number as if it were a musical instrument, while the lad claps delightedly along. The complex popups require complicated (read: fragile) inner works, but they're sturdy enough to survive, at least for a while, the enthusiastic knicking and knacking this will certainly inspire. Children aren't the only readers who'll want to roll home with this treasure. And everyone will want more than one copy. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
AWFUL OGRE’S AWFUL DAY by Jack Prelutsky
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

In 18 poems, grisly enough to delight the taste for the macabre in any child, Prelutsky takes the Awful Ogre through his predictably awful day. From early rising to evening rest, everything that is grotesque is Ogre's idea of grand . . . breakfast of "ghoul on toast," a beloved ogress with greasy green tresses, a garden of well-sharpened thorns and poisonous plants, a precious collection of bones. The rhymes are wickedly rich in vocabulary (his weeds are scrofulous) and wordplay (at TV time, Ogre adores "The Chopping Channel"), and the scansion rarely goes wrong. As depicted gleefully by Prelutsky and Zelinsky, this ogre is a huge, lovable innocent who is unaware of any offense he might give. He seems not to notice that his left nostril houses a skunk. Happily, the illustrations are as blissfully unfettered by the demands of good taste as the poems. They command repeated and close scrutiny, containing ironic humor never mentioned in the text (the limbs on the fire have feet and most of Ogre's household appointments are satisfyingly monstrous). Far different from the painterly style we associate with the Caldecott-winning Zelinsky, his looser style reveals a surprisingly fiendish sense of humor with only the formal borders to remind you of his other renowned works. Of course, even the borders are filled with various forms of unpleasantness. Programmers, let yourselves go, this is a dramatic reader's delight and you'll find your listeners in your lap, not trembling with fear but with laughter, and clamoring to get a closer look at the illustrations. A bad day has never been a better romp. (Poetry. 6-10)Read full book review >
RAPUNZEL by Paul O. Zelinsky
adapted by Paul O. Zelinsky, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Exquisite paintings in late Italian Renaissance style illumine this hybrid version of a classic tale. As Zelinsky (The Wheels on the Bus, 1990, etc.) explains in a long source note, the story's Italian oral progenitor went through a series of literary revisions and translations before the Brothers Grimm published their own take; he draws on many of these to create a formal, spare text that is more about the undercurrents between characters than crime and punishment. Feeling "her dress growing tight around her waist" a woman conceives the desire for an herb from the neighboring garden—rendered in fine detail with low clipped hedges, elaborate statuary and even a wandering pangolin—that causes her to lose her child to a witch. Ensconced for years in a tower, young Rapunzel meets the prince, "marries" him immediately, is cast into the wilderness when her own dress begins to tighten, gives birth to twins, and cures her husband's blindness with her tears at their long-awaited reunion. Suffused with golden light, Zelinsky's landscapes and indoor scenes are grandly evocative, composed and executed with superb technical and emotional command. Read full book review >
SWAMP ANGEL by Anne Isaacs
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

This Tennessee tall tale concerns Angelina Longrider, who even as a child was a real big gal; in fact, and without being too gender-specific, she strongly resembles another wonderkid by the name of Paul Bunyan—and she's just as much fun. Angelina—a late bloomer—builds her first log cabin when she's two, rescues a wagon train from Dejection Swamp (hence Swamp Angel), even tangles with wily Thundering Tarnation, a bear bent on pillaging the winter stores of all Angelina's neighbors. In an epic struggle, Angelina lays Thundering Tarnation low, stocks the whole state's larders from the bear's bounteous flanks, and creates Montana's Shortgrass Prairie from his pelt. It is impossible to convey the sheer pleasure, the exaggerated loopiness, of newcomer Isaacs's wonderful story. Matching the superb text stride for stride are Zelinsky's (The Wheels on the Bus, 1990) altered-state, American primitive paintings—gems that provide new pleasures, reading after reading. To say that you are entering Caldecott land doesn't begin to do this book justice. (Fiction/Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
MORE ROOTABAGAS by Carl Sandburg
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Three volumes of the "American fairy tales" the poet called "Rootabaga Stories" were published between 1922 and 1930; later, according to an introduction by Sandburg scholar George Hendrick, he wrote dozens more that have never been published. Here, Hendrick selects ten that "most reflect Sandburg's incomparable storytelling magic." Favorite characters and places—"The Potato Face Blind Man," "Ax Me No Questions," "The Village of Liver and Onions"—join characters with names recalling Sandburg's children's nicknames ("Spink," "Skabootch," "Swipes") and some grand new ones (one trio: "Burnt Chestnuts," "The Beans Are Burning," and "Sweeter Than The Bees Humming"). For connoisseurs of Sandburg's uniquely whimsical and melodious use of the American idiom, these tales are a delight; the ruminative, ear-tickling repetitions, visual images, astonishing juxtapositions, airy surreal happenings, and sly metaphorical comments on human foibles are all here in strength. And Zelinsky's accomplishment is equally great. Using colored pencils on plastivellum drafting film, he mirrors and embellishes Sandburg's fantastical creations with enormous delicacy and imagination, providing dozens of delicious variations on the rutabaga theme (one becomes a coiled blue cat with downward-descending tail, others have fey creatures nestled in their greens), limning characters with characteristic energy, artfully manipulating the very text. His art for the last tale, where the poet makes a cameo appearance, is especially lovely and ingenious. Splendid in every way. (Fiction. 4+)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 21, 1992

One of the landmarks of children's fantasy: an enduring favorite first published in 1907, now reissued in the "Books of Wonder" series with a dozen splendid new color illustrations that extend an award-winning artist's already extraordinary range. Skillfully selecting pivotal, magical moments, Zelinsky again uses his trademark dynamic perspectives and figures, while depicting the intriguing castle itself in enchantingly imaginative detail. A delightful blend of period flavor, contemporary sensibility, and innovative composition. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
STRIDER by Beverly Cleary
Released: Sept. 20, 1991

Leigh Botts, of Newbery-winning Dear Mr. Henshaw, is still learning to cope with his parents' divorce—a task to which he brings his earlier sensitivity and a new self-confidence. Now 14 and entering high school, Leigh and best-friend Barry find an appealing abandoned dog on the beach and name him Strider. Both boys would like to keep him; Barry's large, amiable family could easily accommodate Strider, but Barry—realizing how much Leigh wants the dog despite the probability that his landlady will object—suggests a unique joint custody. The arrangement works beautifully until Barry goes away for his annual month with his mom; when he comes back, Leigh's reluctance to share Strider cools their friendship—until the boys finally level with each other and work out a new deal that recognizes Leigh's greater need and affection for the dog. The action, as described in Leigh's diary, pivots around Strider; meanwhile, however, family relationships (especially Leigh's with his dad) are subtly growing and maturing in trademark Cleary style, the accessible, lightly humorous surface just one of the levels of an insightful story about idiosyncratic but nice characters dealing with universal issues. A sequel that could stand on its own (but won't have to); a comforting picture of a dear old friend thriving while continuing to work out his problems. Zelinsky's perceptive drawings are an excellent bonus. (Fiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
THE WHEELS ON THE BUS by Paul O. Zelinsky
Released: Oct. 30, 1990

Special kudos to paper-engineer Rodger Smith for his extraordinary (and sturdy!) animation of Zelinsky's lively, sophisticated yet accessible, delightfully detailed rendition of this preschool favorite—including a reprise that rivals a last burst of fireworks. Destined to be a classic. Read full book review >
RUMPELSTILTSKIN by The Brothers Grimm
Released: Oct. 16, 1986

After comparing several of the original Grimm variants, Zelinsky has selected and retold to make his own version. Graceful and lucid, it differs from the familiar in having the imp overheard crowing about his name by a servant rather than by the king, and by having him ride about and ultimately depart forever on a cooking spoon, a non-violent conclusion. Zelinaky's illustrations are opulently painted, full of classical architectural detail, fantastic distant landscapes, and that early use of perspective which gives a raked stage effect. Rumpelstiltskin is a bug-eyed, spindle-legged Machiavelli of an imp, dressed as a courtier. The miller's daughter/queen has the face of a madonna, although her expressions are contemporary enough to interest modern children in her plight. The king (not a savory character, since he was prepared to murder his wife if she failed to spin straw into gold) stays in the background. A distinguished edition of one of Grimm's favorite tales. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 26, 1984

An odd, static work for Zelinsky—composed of painterly, Old Master paintings. But these have the eerie, haunting quality of German Romanticism (or, sometimes, of Balthus)—with intimations of real malevolence in the mother who'd leave the children in the forest, truly Wagnerian visions of the forest at sundown and in moonlight, distorted perspectives and drastic foreshortenings in the scenes of imminent danger, and even a welcome-home from their father that works in the same gestural mode. The telling is also stern, unadorned. (Lesser's appended Note explains the omission of the familiar, "Nibble, nibble, little mouse / Who's that nibbling at my house?") For anyone who wants a cruel and joyous, dire and tender "Hansel and Gretel," this is it—with the screaming old witch visible through the door of the burning oven as Gretel slams it shut. But be warned: It's the story of good triumphing over evil, not a fairy tale with a happy ending. Read full book review >
THE LION AND THE STOAT by Paul O. Zelinsky
Released: March 1, 1984

Three sneaky episodes in the competitive life of rival artists, a lion and a stoat—and a showcase for the elegant wit of author/illustrator Zelinsky (who displays the assurance here of a much older pro). We first meet the pair as, lion in top hat and tails, stoat in scarf and beret, each critically studies a painting by the other (great-art spoofs) at the local museum—where the observant child will not only take in the rivalry at a glance (from the artists' posturings), but also spot the amusing details that Zelinsky distributes sparingly (and all the more tellingly) in his spacious compositions. Episode I has the lion and the stoat agree to a painting contest, at the marketplace. When birds peck at the lion's painted grapes, he claims victory—and challenges the stoat to unveil his painting. "There is no curtain," says the stoat. "Your still life may have fooled the birds, but my painting has fooled you." Episode II is not a guffaw, it's a gasp. (Both, we're told, are from Pliny.) Alone in the stoat's studio, the lion leaves a message—"a very thin, straight line across the middle of the canvas." The stoat, returning, leaves a message in turn—in a different color, "another, even thinner line over the one the lion had made." The lion, coming back, pronounces the result "not had." But it's his third line, "so thin it was almost invisible," that decides this second contest—as we see the stoat rushing to congratulate the lion at his sidewalk-cafe dinner. (Slightly Gallic or Pène-du-Bois-ish, yes; whimsical or satiric, not really.) Episode III finds each painting a picture, again in competition, for the new Town Hall—and both painting self-portraits. The mayor, disconcerted, has no choice but to hang both. Meanwhile the two artists, agreeing no-more-contests, head for lunch—and a game of tic-tac-toe on the checked tablecloth. Affectionate and sparkling. Read full book review >
RALPH S. MOUSE by Paul O. Zelinsky
Released: Aug. 11, 1982

Still ensconced at Mountain View Inn in Cucaracha, California, Cleary's endearing little talking mouse with the motorcycle finds himself the cause of trouble at the inn. First, his nighttime cycling sprees have drawn several envious little relatives to the inn's lobby, where they clamor for turns to ride and call Ralph "greedy" for refusing; he in turn shocks them and himself by calling them "rotten little rodents." What's more, the droppings from all those mice have got Ralph's handyman friend old Matt in trouble with the management, And so to escape his relatives and save Matt's job, Ralph talks his friend Ryan Bramble, the son of the inn's new housekeeper, into taking him off to live at his school. Fortunately, Ryan's teacher is the sympathetic, enlightened sort—so that when Ralph is discovered in Ryan's pocket she turns the occasion into a class project on mice. During Ralph's week at school, his beloved motorcycle is broken during a fight between Ryan and surly classmate Brad—but Ralph is "speechless with joy" when Brad gives him a sports car in its place. In the end, lonely Ryan and equally lonely Brad have become friends ("because of me," Ralph reflects with satisfaction); Ralph is proud "because he had helped Miss K. educate her class"; and Ralph himself has learned enough from Miss K.'s classroom methods to manage his relatives' demands for rides in the new sports car. A little short, perhaps, on Cleary's under-the-skin empathy; but as usual the little things, down to Ralph's learning to say vroom-vroom-vroom, not pb-b-b, pb-b-b (the motorcycle noise), to start his car—and moorv (vroom backwards) to back it up, tune readers in to Ralph's experiences. Read full book review >
Released: June 8, 1981

In the tradition referred to here as a "tell and draw" story, this old rhyme puts a "wee maid" and a fat mouse in a new five-sided house; then adds two chimneys (a dead giveaway for readers who've seen this trick in a simpler version); has the maid take off on a stumbling walk and then rush home again; and then—with a few clever touches (dirt swept out of the house becomes cat whiskers; a swept-off walk becomes a tail)—steps back to reveal house, path, and trimmings as the outline of a giant cat. In a sort of contrapuntal border, humans and animals parade sedately or dash by in predatory chase. Zelinsky gives the tale an antic elegance. (The "wee maid" is not a little girl, as that term suggests, but a spaghetti-thin, white-haired lady in 18th-century costume.) The overall effect is quaint, but spry. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1981

A literary conceit, mocking the conventions and sentiments of old-time fiction, has precious little chance with youngsters of nine or so. But this one self-destructs in the first couple of pages—when we're asked to think of eleven-year-old Harry, child of overprotective parents, as a "small boy" whose "soft eyes and appealing mouth" have caused him to be taken as helpless. And throughout the ensuing events, he hasn't indeed a clue to what we, the readers, know: that Miss Annie Trowbridge, the minister's 15-year-old ward who's taking care of him in his parents' absence, is really married to Mr. Nicholas Pym (whom she introduces as her half-brother); that she laughed at a proposal from fat Constable Narbut, so he's out for revenge; that his parents told a fellow-passenger, Mr. Jeremiah Skatch, seller of uplifting tracts, about the strongbox they left behind in Miss T.'s care, so he's out to get the box and lay the blame on Miss T. Harry just resents Miss T. (because his parents went off); is taken in by Mr. S. (because he calls him "brave, bold," etc.); and never does get straightened out until the last pages. . . of a book that's mostly making fun of itself (and not a little of poor Harry). A dubious undertaking not very well executed. Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1978

This is subtitled "How Deadwood Dick Saved the Banker's Niece"—but Dick is really eleven-year-old runaway Seth Marple, and instead of saving Emily when she's sent to stay with her uncle but finds no one waiting for her at the station, Seth convinces her that the town is full of bandits and she'd better stay with him in his lean-to hideaway. Indulging Emily's proper Victorian housekeeping notions for the reward he expects for her rescue, Seth even persuades the prim little girl to rob her uncle's bank (a matter, he explains, of stealing the money back from the robbers) to obtain her fare back to Boston. But in the process they run into another, bigger-time robber, and his identity is the biggest surprise so far—but not the last. Set in 1875 and played as the fluffiest of spoofs, it's all expertly timed, performed with flair, and illustrated in kind. Read full book review >