Paul O. Zelinsky

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Paul O. Zelinsky (born 1953) is an American illustrator and writer best known for illustrating children's picture books. He won the 1998 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing Rapunzel. His most popular work is The Wheels on the Bus, a best-selling movable book.

Zelinsky had been one Caldecott runner-up in 1985, 1987, and 1995, the latter for Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs (Dutton, 1994). Twenty years later they were joint runners-up for the Phoenix Picture Book Award from the Children's Literature Association, which annually recognizes the best picture book that did not win a major award 20 years earlier. "Books are considered not only for the quality of their illustrations, but for the way pictures and text work together."[1]


Early life[edit]

Paul O. Zelinsky was born in Evanston, Illinois, and he grew up in Wilmette. As a child he spent much of his time drawing. Often with his friends he would make up imaginary worlds and draw them. When he was only four, he submitted work to Highlights magazine, and his artwork was first showcased. Some of his influential childhood book favorites included The Color Kittens and The Tawny Scrawny Lion. Zelinsky said in reference to memories of what he had read, "Feelings come to me as a sort of flavor. I know that when I call up my earliest memories, what I remember seeing and hearing is accompanied by a flavor-like sense of what it felt like to be there and see that."[citation needed] In later years of his youth, his favorite authors were William Pène du Bois and Robert Lawson. He especially loved the books The Twenty-One Balloons, by du Bois, and The Fantastic Flight.[who?]


At New Trier High School, Zelinsky was interested in natural history as well as architecture and saw himself following one of those paths for a career. However, he went to study at Yale. He took a class taught by Maurice Sendak on the history and art of children's books, and it inspired him to a career in the area. Zelinsky went to graduate school at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and Rome. The Renaissance and Italian art always fascinated him, and this time in his life influenced this love as well. His career in children's books began in 1978 with the illustrations for Avi's Emily Upham's Revenge. Since then he has continued to illustrate others' work as well as creating his own books. He won the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel and three Caldecott honors (for Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995)). His most popular book is The Wheels on the Bus, which has sold millions.[citation needed]

Artistic style[edit]

Zelinsky does not have a recognizable style, suiting his artwork and techniques to the particular nature of the book to be illustrated. According to Linnea Lannon in a Detroit Free Press profile of the artist[citation needed] "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."[2] The Wheels on the Bus and Knick-Knack Paddywhack! are engineered books with moving parts.[clarification needed]


As writer and illustrator
As illustrator
  • Emily Upham's Revenge; or, How Deadwood Dick saved the banker's niece: a Massachusetts adventure, written by Avi (Pantheon Books, 1978)
  • The History of Helpless Harry, to which is added a variety of amusing and entertaining adventures, Avi (1980)
  • Z is for Moose, Kelly Bingham (2012)
  • Circle, Square, Moose, Kelly Bingham (forthcoming 2014) – sequel to Z is for Moose
  • Ralph S. Mouse, Beverly Cleary (1982)
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw, Beverly Cleary (1983)
  • Strider, Beverly Cleary (1991)
  • Doodler Doodling, Rita Golden Gelman (2004)
  • The Sun's Asleep Behind the Hill, Mirra Ginsburg (1982) – adapted from an Armenian song
  • Swamp Angel, Anne Isaacs (Dutton Children's Books, 1994)[3]
  • Dust Devil, Anne Isaacs (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2010) – sequel to Swamp Angel[4][5][6]
  • Toys Go Out series, children's novels by Emily Jenkins, published by Schwartz & Wade
    • Toys Go Out: being the adventures of a knowledgeable stingray, a toughy little buffalo, and someone called Plastic (2006)
    • Toy Dance Party: being the further adventures of a bossyboots stingray, a courageous buffalo, and a hopeful round someone called Plastic (2008)
    • Toys Come Home: being the early experiences of an intelligent stingray, a brave buffalo, and a brand-new someone called Plastic (2011)
    • Toys Meet Snow: being the wintertime adventures of a curious stuffed buffalo, a sensitive plush stingray, and a book-loving rubber ball (forthcoming 2015) [7]
  • Earwig and the Witch, Diana Wynne Jones (2012)
  • The Song in the Walnut Grove, David Kherdian (1982)
  • What Amanda Saw, Naomi Lazard (1981)
  • Hansel and Gretel, retold by Rika Lesser (1984)
  • The Shivers in the Fridge, Fran Manushkin (2006)
  • The Enchanted Castle, E. Nesbit (1992; orig. 1907)
  • Five Children and It, E. Nesbit (1999; orig. 1902)
  • The Random House Book of Humor for Children, selected by Pamela Pollack (1988)
  • Zoo Doings: animal poems, Jack Prelutsky (1983)
  • Awful Ogre's Awful Day, Jack Prelutsky (2000) – poems
  • Awful Ogre Running Wild, Jack Prelutsky (2008) – poems
  • Three Romances: love stories from Camelot retold, Winifred Rosen (1981)
  • More Rootabagas, posthumous collection by Carl Sandburg, ed. George Hendrick (1993)
  • The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat, Lore Segal (1985)
  • How I Hunted the Little Fellows, Boris Zhitkov, transl. from Russian by Djemma Bider (Dodd, Mead, 1979)


  1. ^ "Phoenix Picture Book Award". Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
  2. ^ "Paul O. Zelinsky (1953–) Biography – Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights". Brief Biographies ( Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  3. ^ "SWAMP ANGEL by Anne Isaacs {...}". Kirkus Reviews. October 15, 1994. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  4. ^ "Review of the Day: Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs". Elizabeth Bird. August 27, 2010. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  5. ^ "DUST DEVIL by Anne Isaacs {...}". Kirkus Reviews. September 1, 2010. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  6. ^ "Paul O. Zelinsky's Bookmaking Saga". Sally Lodge. July 29, 2010. Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  7. ^ "Toys meet snow: being the wintertime adventures of a curious stuffed ...". Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2014-07-16.

Further reading[edit]

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