Daniel Pinkwater

Daniel Manus Pinkwater (born November 15, 1941) is an American author of children's books and young adult fiction. His books include Lizard Music, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, Fat Men from Space, Borgel, and the picture book The Big Orange Splot. He has also written an adult novel, The Afterlife Diet, and essay collections derived from his talks on National Public Radio.

Many elements of his fiction are based on real events and people he encountered in his youth.

Pinkwater is a trained artist and has illustrated many of his books, but for more recent works, that task has passed to his wife, Jill Pinkwater. His artistic technique varies from work to work, with some books illustrated in computer drawings, others in woodcuts and others in Magic Marker.

Pinkwater varies his name slightly between books (for instance, "Daniel Pinkwater", "Daniel M. Pinkwater", "Daniel Manus Pinkwater", "D. Manus Pinkwater").

He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland. He describes his father as a "ham-eating, iconoclastic Jew." His parents moved to Chicago, where he grew up. He attended Bard College.

Daniel Pinkwater
Pinkwater in 2011
Pinkwater in 2011
BornNovember 15, 1941 (age 77)
Memphis, Tennessee
Pen nameDaniel Pinkwater, Daniel M. Pinkwater, Daniel Manus Pinkwater, D. Manus Pinkwater
OccupationAuthor, illustrator
Alma materBard College
GenreChildren's literature, young adult fiction
Notable worksThe Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, The Big Orange Splot, Borgel
SpouseJill Pinkwater


Pinkwater tends to write about social misfits who find themselves in bizarre situations, such as searching for a floating island populated by human-sized intelligent lizards (Lizard Music), exploring other universes with an obscure relative (Borgel), or discovering that their teeth can function as interstellar radio antennae (Fat Men from Space). They are often, though not always, set in thinly—or not at all—disguised versions of Chicago and Hoboken, New Jersey. He often includes Chicago landmarks and folkloric figures from his childhood in 1950s Chicago, regardless of when the book is set. An example of this is the recurring character the Chicken Man, a mysterious but dignified black man who carries a performing chicken on his head. This character is based on a shadowy figure from 1950s Chicago; after Pinkwater made him a lead character in Lizard Music he received letters from Chicago residents who remembered the Chicken Man. Pinkwater also pays tribute to the Clark Theater (a repertory movie theatre on Clark Street in the Chicago Loop that changed features daily and stayed open all night), Bughouse Square, and Ed & Fred's Red Hots. Another common theme is Jewish culture, with characters incongruously speaking in Yiddish-influenced dialogue or participating in Borscht Belt culture. Characters sometimes have surnames that append the "-stein" element familiar in some Jewish names to names suggesting other ethnicities (e.g., "Wentworthstein").

In 1995, Pinkwater published his first adult novel, The Afterlife Diet, in which a mediocre editor, upon dying, finds himself in a tacky Catskills resort populated by "circumferentially challenged" deceased.

Comics and radio

Pinkwater authored the newspaper comic strip Norb, which was illustrated by Tony Auth. The strip, syndicated by King Features, was cancelled after 52 weeks.[1] The daily strips were released in a 78-page collection by MU Press in 1992.

Pinkwater is also a longtime commentator on National Public Radio. He regularly reviews children's books on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. For several years, he had his own NPR show: Chinwag Theater. Pinkwater is also known to avid fans of the NPR radio show Car Talk, where he has appeared as a (seemingly) random caller, commenting, for example, on the physics of the buttocks (giving rise to the proposed unit of measure of seat size: the Pinkwater), and giving practical advice as to the choice of automobiles. In the early 1990s Pinkwater voiced a series of humorous radio advertisements for the Ford Motor Company.

Challenged book

Following an appearance by Pinkwater on the Public Radio International program This American Life,[2] his book The Devil in the Drain ended up on challenged book lists at numerous children's libraries.[3]

The Hare and the Pineapple used on exams

In April 2012, a story attributed to Daniel Pinkwater, "The Hare and the Pineapple", was used on a standardized exam for 8th grade students in New York. The story was based on Pinkwater's short story, "The Story of the Rabbit and the Eggplant", which he had sold to the testing company.[4] The published version changed the racer from an eggplant to a pineapple, and changed the moral of the story.[5] Students were asked two perplexing questions: "Why did the animals eat the pineapple?" and "Which animal spoke the wisest words?"[6] These questions baffled students.[7] City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a statement saying improvements on the state exam will be made in the future.[8] The New York Daily News staff sent the question to Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, and he was stumped as well.[9]

Partial bibliography

Children's books

  • The Terrible Roar (1970)
  • Bear's Picture (1972)
  • Wizard Crystal (1973)
  • Fat Elliot and the Gorilla (1974)
  • Magic Camera (1974)
  • Blue Moose (1975)
  • Three Big Hogs (1975)
  • Around Fred's Bed (1976)
  • The Big Orange Splot (1977)
  • The Blue Thing (1977)
  • Fat Men From Space (1977)
  • The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1977)
  • Pickle Creature (1979)
  • Return of the Moose (1979)
  • The Magic Moscow (1980)
  • The Wuggie Norple Story (1980)
  • Attila the Pun: A Magic Moscow Story (1981)
  • Roger's Umbrella (1981)
  • Tooth-Gnasher Superflash (1981)
  • Slaves of Spiegel: A Magic Moscow Story (1982)
  • I Was a Second Grade Werewolf (1983)
  • Devil in the Drain (1984)
  • Ducks! (1984)
  • Jolly Roger: A Dog of Hoboken (1985)
  • The Frankenbagel Monster (1986)
  • The Moosepire (1986)
  • The Muffin Fiend (1986)
  • Aunt Lulu (1988)
  • Guys from Space (1989)
  • Uncle Melvin (1989)
  • Doodle Flute (1991)
  • Wempires (1991)
  • The Phantom of the Lunch Wagon (1992)
  • Author's Day (1993)
  • Spaceburger: A Keven Spoon and Mason Mintz Story (1993)
  • Ned Feldman, Space Pirate (1994)
  • Mush, A Dog from Space (1995)
  • Goose Night (1996), later reprinted as The Magic Goose (1997)
  • Wallpaper from Space (1997)
  • At the Hotel Larry (1998)
  • Young Larry (1998)
  • Bongo Larry (1998)
  • Second Grade Ape (1998)
  • Wolf Christmas (1999)
  • Big Bob and the Halloween Potatoes (1999)
  • Big Bob and the Magic Valentine's Day Potato (1999)
  • Big Bob and the Holiday Potato (1999)
  • Rainy Morning (2000)
  • Ice Cream Larry (2000)
  • Sleepover Larry (2000)
  • Bad Bears Go Visiting: An Irving and Muktuk Story (2000)
  • Big Bob and the Thanksgiving Potatoes (2000)
  • The Werewolf Club #1: The Magic Pretzel (2001)
  • The Werewolf Club #2: The Lunchroom of Doom (2001)
  • Cone Kong: The Scary Ice Cream Giant (2001)
  • Fat Camp Commandos (2001)
  • Irving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears (2002)
  • The Werewolf Club #3: The Werewolf Club Meets Dorkula (2002)
  • The Werewolf Club #4: The Werewolf Club Meets the Hound of the Basketballs (2002)
  • Fat Camp Commandos Go West (2003)
  • Mush's Jazz Adventure (2004)
  • The Werewolf Club #5: The Werewolf Club Meets Oliver Twit (2005)
  • Bad Bears in the Big City: An Irving and Muktuk Story (2005)
  • The Picture of Morty and Ray (2006)
  • Looking for Bobowicz: A Hoboken Chicken Story (2006)
  • Bad Bears and a Bunny: An Irving and Muktuk Story (2006)
  • The Artsy Smartsy Club (2006)
  • Bad Bear Detectives: An Irving and Muktuk Story (2007)
  • Dancing Larry (2007)
  • Yo-Yo Man (2007)
  • Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken (2010)
  • I Am the Dog (2010)
  • Mrs. Noodlekugel (2012)
  • Beautiful Yetta's Hanukkah Kitten (2014)

Young adult/Teen novels


  • Young Adults (1991)
    • contains Young Adult Novel, the stories Dead End Dada and The Dada Boys in Collitch (not printed elsewhere), and some Kevin Shapiro stories sent in to the author by fans.
  • 5 Novels (1997)
    • collects Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars; Slaves of Spiegel; The Last Guru; Young Adult Novel; The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death
  • 4 Fantastic Novels (2000)
    • collects Borgel, Yobgorgle, The Worms of Kukumlima, The Snarkout Boys & the Baconburg Horror
  • Once Upon a Blue Moose (2006)
    • collects Blue Moose, Return of the Moose, and The Moosepire

Adult fiction

  • The Afterlife Diet (1995)


  • Hoboken Fish and Chicago Whistle (1999): a book of essays, combining essays from two previous books:
    • Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights (1991)
    • Fish Whistle (1989)
  • Superpuppy: How to Choose, Raise, and Train the Best Possible Dog for You (1977)
  • Uncle Boris in the Yukon and Other Shaggy Dog Stories (2001)


  1. ^ Norb Don Markstein's Toonopedia, accessed on May 10, 2007.
  2. ^ This American Life episode #43: Faustian Bargains, broadcast 22 November 1996. (transcript)
  3. ^ "Fall 2004 SWAL Conference Information". Southwest Wisconsin Association of Libraries Conferences. Archived from the original on Jan 15, 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2006-07-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ McGrath, Ben. "Daniel Pinkwater on "The Hare and the Pineapple"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  6. ^ Chapman, Ben; Monahan, Rachel (2012-04-19). "Talking pineapple question on state exam stumps ... everyone!". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  7. ^ Strauss, Valerie (2012-04-20). "'Talking pineapple' question on standardized test baffles students - The Answer Sheet". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  8. ^ 04/20/2012 1:47 pm Updated: 04/25/2012 3:26 pm (2012-04-20). "Talking Pineapple Question On 8th-Grade New York State Exam Confuses Everyone (UPDATE)". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  9. ^ "'Talking pineapple' questions confuse kids, teachers, world". Now.msn.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-22. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  10. ^ "Bushman Lives -- About the Book". Archived from the original on September 30, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-14.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. ^ mention of sequel on the last page of ''The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl''. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  • "Daniel Manus Pinkwater". Entry in "Contemporary Authors Online", Thomson Gale, 2005. Accessed 2005-09-27.

Further reading

External links

1979 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1979.

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars is a novel by Daniel Pinkwater, published in 1979.

All Things Considered

All Things Considered (ATC) is the flagship news program on the American network National Public Radio (NPR). It was the first news program on NPR, premiering on May 3, 1971. It is broadcast live on NPR affiliated stations in the United States, and worldwide through several different outlets, formerly including the NPR Berlin station in Germany. All Things Considered and Morning Edition were the highest rated public radio programs in the United States in 2002 and 2005. The show combines news, analysis, commentary, interviews, and special features, and its segments vary in length and style. ATC airs weekdays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (live) or Pacific Standard Time (recorded with some updates; in Hawaii it airs as a fully recorded program) or from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. A weekend version of ATC, Weekend All Things Considered, airs on Saturdays and Sundays.

Andrea U'Ren

Andrea U'Ren (born 1968) also known as Andrea Uren and A. U'Ren is an American author and illustrator of many children's picture books. Her work has garnered several awards, including a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators, NY, International Reading Association's Best Book of 2004, Parents' Choice Gold award winner and a reading by Daniel Pinkwater and Scott Simon on National Public Radio of her book Mary Smith about a "knocker-up" also illustrated by Ms. U'Ren (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) . U'Ren's other titles include Pugdog (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001) a gender bending tale, One Potato, Two Potato written by Cynthia DeFelice (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2006), Stormy's Hat, Just Right for a Railroad Man written by Eric Kimmel (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2008) and "Feeding the Sheep" written by Leda Schubert (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2010).

U'Ren was born in Palo Alto, California. She first attended Rhode Island School of Design from 1986–87, then transferred to and earned a bachelor's degree in fine art from The Cooper Union, New York, New York in 1991. U'Ren also attended the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program within the Artist's Studio department from 1991-1992. Her art (both fine and illustrations) has been shown in many galleries and group shows. U'Ren currently lives with her son, Sebastian, in Portland, Oregon. The name Uren, sometimes changed to U'Ren, is of Cornish origin.

Bailey White

June Bailey White (born May 31, 1950) is an American author and a regular radio commentator for the National Public Radio program All Things Considered.

She was born in Thomasville, Georgia. She is the daughter of Robb White, who was a fiction writer, and Rosalie White (née' Mason), a farmer. White grew up with her mother in Georgia, while her father lived and wrote in Hollywood. Her mother, and her South Georgian eccentricity, have been central to her writing. Her mother died in 1994.After graduating from Florida State University in 1973, Miss White moved to California, where she married her father's best friend. After 11 years of marriage, she returned to Georgia where she taught, for more than twenty years, at the school she attended as a girl. Her friend, Daniel Pinkwater, convinced her to submit some commentaries to NPR. Her gravelly voice and gift for portraying the unusual personalities of people in the rural South with gentle wit proved very popular with her NPR audience. In 1999, she left teaching to concentrate on her writing.

White has published four books: Mama Makes Up Her Mind; Sleeping at the Starlite Motel; Quite a Year for Plums; and, in 2008, Nothing with Strings.

Bats at the Beach

Bats at the Beach is a New York Times bestselling picture book by Brian Lies. In the book, bats flock to the beach to spend a splendid moon-lit night on the sand and in the water, echoing what people do at the beach—but in a particularly batty way.

The message of the book is that bats are not bad. A portion of all copies sold went to Bat Conservation International.


Borgel is a children's novel written by Daniel Pinkwater. This book was published in 1990. It was reprinted in 1993 in the United Kingdom, under the title The Time Tourists.

Chicken Man

Chicken Man may refer to:

"Chicken Man", the original theme tune of the British TV series Grange Hill from 1978-1990 and also the theme tune of Give Us a Clue

Chicken Man, the stage name of Fred Staten, nightclub performer, voodoo practitioner of New Orleans

Chickenman (radio series), a radio series from the 1960s

"Chicken Man", a song by the Indigo Girls from the album Rites of Passage

The Chicken Man, a recurring character in numerous Daniel Pinkwater books, such as Lizard Music

Chicken Man, nickname of Philip Testa, boss of the Philadelphia mafia for a brief time

"Chicken Man", a song by Evelyn Evelyn on their eponymous album

Fried clams

Fried clams are clam dipped in milk and then flour and deep-fried.

Fried clams are an iconic food, "to New England, what barbecue is to the South". They tend to be served at seaside clam shacks (roadside restaurants). Clam rolls are fried clams served in a hot dog bun. Tartar sauce is the usual condiment.

Little Toot

Little Toot is a children's story written and illustrated by Hardie Gramatky, featuring a young tugboat in New York Harbor who does not want to tug. Instead, he'd rather make figure eights in the harbor and bother all the other tugboats. But when he ends up all alone on the open water as a storm is rolling in, it’s up to him to save a stuck ocean liner.

The book (G. P. Putnam's Sons first children's book) has been continually in print since 1939. In 2007, in honor of what would have been Gramatky's 100th birthday, Penguin Putnam publishers rescanned the original artwork, added nine original full-color sketches by the illustrator, and brought back detailed endpapers so the book has been restored to its first-edition colors and vibrancy. Daniel Pinkwater and Scott Simon read and raved about the restored classic edition ("Hardie Gramatky never speaks down to children") on NPR's Weekend Edition in October 2007.

The story appeared in an animated segment of the Walt Disney Studios film Melody Time in 1948; the story was sung by the Andrews Sisters, with Vic Schoen providing the background musical score. In this version, Little Toot disgraces his father Big Toot by recklessly (albeit unintentionally) causing an ocean liner - one Big Toot was towing out to sea - to crash into skyscrapers in New York City. Little Toot is banished from the harbor as a result. In exile, Little Toot realizes that he must "grow up" - in other words, give up his careless ways - in order to earn respect from the other boats...including Big Toot, who has been stuck towing garbage scows ever since that fiasco with the ocean liner. Then Little Toot gets his chance: another ocean liner gets stuck on a reef, beyond the 12-mile limits; since Big Toot and the police boats are bottled up in the harbor by a storm, Little Toot must single-handedly rescue the grounded liner...which he does.

When Capitol Records produced a record with the Little Toot song, it was the first children's record to hit the 1,000,000 sales mark on Billboard, according to then-president Alan Livingston.

An animated adaptation of Little Toot and the Loch Ness Monster was seen in Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories and was narrated by Rick Moranis.

There was also another movie based on Little Toot called The New Adventures of Little Toot. It featured Samuel Vincent as the voice of the title character and was released on home video in 1992 by Strand Home Video.

Man Meets Dog

Man Meets Dog is a zoological book for the general audience, written by the Austrian scientist Konrad Lorenz in 1949. The first English-language edition appeared in 1954.

The original German title is So kam der Mensch auf den Hund, which could be literally translated as "How man ended up with dog". The German title is also a play on the phrase "Auf den Hund kommen", which is a common idiom in German-speaking countries and probably comes from the old days when farmers with economic problems had to sell their livestock animals and ended up with only the dog.

Mount Analogue

Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing is a classic novel by the early 20th-century French novelist René Daumal.

Norb (comic strip)

Norb was a newspaper comic strip written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Tony Auth. Syndicated by King Features Syndicate, it ran for 52 weeks beginning in 1989.

Slaves of Spiegel

Slaves of Spiegel is a 1982 epistolary novel by Daniel Pinkwater.

Sydney Taylor Book Award

The Sydney Taylor Book Award recognizes the best in Jewish children's literature. Medals are awarded annually for outstanding books that authentically portray the Jewish experience. The award was established in 1968 by the Association of Jewish Libraries. It is named in memory of Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. Taylor's were some of the first children's books with Jewish characters that were of literary interest to readers of all backgrounds.

The Education of Robert Nifkin

The Education of Robert Nifkin is a 1998 novel written for young adults by United States author Daniel Pinkwater. It is set during the 1950s in Chicago and is written in the format of a college application essay. It follows the unusual high school experience of the narrator, Robert Nifkin.

The Worms of Kukumlima

The Worms of Kukumlima is a humorous book written by Daniel Pinkwater for all ages and first published in 1981.

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