Sunday, May 23, 2010

Author/Illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky

--by Hanje Richards

Paul O. Zelinsky (born 1953) is an American author and illustrator of children's books. He was born in Wilmette, Illinois, the son of a mathematics professor father and a medical illustrator mother. He drew compulsively from an early age but did not know until college that this would be his career. As a sophomore in Yale College, he enrolled in a course on the history and practice of the picture book, co-taught by an English professor and Maurice Sendak. This experience inspired Paul to point himself in the direction of children's books.

His first book appeared in 1978, since which time he has become recognized as one of the most inventive and critically successful artists in the field. He was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1998 for his Rapunzel. Zelinsky does not have a recognizable style, suiting his artwork and techniques to the particular nature of the book to be illustrated. Linnea Lannon noted in a Detroit Free Press profile of the artist that "what has raised Zelinsky into the first rank of children's book illustrators is not just the pictures but the way they integrate with text."

Zelinsky says, "I want the pictures to speak in the same voice as the words. This desire has led me to try various kinds of drawings in different books. I have used quite a wide stretch of styles, and I'm fortunate to have been asked to illustrate such a range of stories.”
For more on author/illustrator Paul Zelensky, go to his web site at

Hansel and Gretel (by Rika Lesser; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky) - The first Grimm tale illustrated by 1998 Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky. Originally published in 1984, Zelinsky's paintings for Hansel and Gretel are as compelling as his later work and will captivate readers with their mysterious beauty, emotional power, and brilliant originality. Each spread brings to life a world as rich and real as our own –detailed, colorful, sensual – yet filled with the unearthly shadowed magic of the Hansel and Gretel folktale. Whether portraying the fear and anguish of children abandoned by their parents, the delicious sumptuousness of a candy house, or the joy of being reunited with one's family, the artist captures the subtle nuances of emotion and the tactile quality of the physical world with exquisite accuracy and elegance.

Rapunzel (by Paul O. Zelinsky) - Trapped in a tower with no door, Rapunzel is allowed to see no one but the sorceress who has imprisoned her – until the day a young prince hears her singing to the forest birds.. The timeless tale of Rapunzel is vividly and magnificently brought to life through Zelinsky's powerful sense of narrative and his stunning oil paintings.

Rumpelstiltskin (by Paul O. Zelinsky) - Zelinsky's oil paintings are perfectly suited to the saga of the little man with the secret name who knows how to spin straw into gold. The golden light infusing the late medieval setting subtly reinforces the theme. The visual characterization of Rumpelstiltskin is a triumph: an odd elfin man with bulbous eyes, a gigantic, flat black hat, impossibly skinny arms and legs, and long, pointed black shoes. This Rumpelstiltskin is not scary or horrid, but rather mischievous and weird. When the young queen finally guesses his name, and thus is able to keep her baby, he flies off on his huge cooking spoon (with a pout), true to the Grimms's 1819 version of the story.

Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat (by Lore Segal; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky) - Mrs. Lovewright is a chilly person, and she knows exactly what she needs to warm up. "There's no being cozy without a cat," she says. So she adopts an adorable kitten she names Purrly. But she soon finds herself in a battle of wills with a cat who has no intention of being cozy. Anyone who has ever lived with a cat can guess who will emerge victorious.

Swamp Angel (by Anne Isaacs; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky) - Swamp Angel, a prodigious heroine who can disarm taunting men and marauding bear alike, is the original creation of Anne Isaacs, whose tall-tale text unfolds in a crackling combination of irony, exaggeration, and sheer good humor. Zelinsky, working in an American primitive style on cherry and maple veneers, brings his matchless wit and whimsy to these characters of extraordinary dimension. From the Great Smoky Mountains to the starry heavens above, Swamp Angel and Thundering Tarnation leave their indelible impressions on land and sky. So too will this book hold readers with its bold, expansive image-making – grandly demonstrating the flamboyant vigor and winking humor by which the tall-tale tradition endures.

Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo and Someone Called Plastic (by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky) - Lumphy is a stuffed buffalo. StingRay is a stuffed stingray. And Plastic... well, Plastic isn't quite sure what she is. They all belong to the Little Girl who lives on the high bed with the fluffy pillows.
Together is best for these three best friends. Together they look things up in the dictionary, explore the basement, and argue about the meaning of life. And together they face dogs, school, television commercials, the vastness of the sea, and the terrifying bigness of the washing machine.