Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Paul O. Zelinsky
|© Paul O. Zelinksy
Sept. 19, 2014
KidLit411 is excited and honored to present the award winning author-illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky! Paul is the creator of the classic interactive book called THE WHEELS ON THE BUS. In 1998, his retelling of Rapunzel was awarded the Caldecott Medal. Other books, RUMPELSTITLSKIN, HANSEL AND GRETEL and SWAMP ANGEL have also garnered Paul a Caldecott Honor.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to become an illustrator.
You might not be surprised to hear that I was a kid who drew a lot, on everything. I was curious about a great deal, and thought maybe I would like to grow up to be an artist, but there were many other possibilities. Illustrating children's books was not among them. Despite the fact that I was in thrall to the picture books I grew up with, and continued to visit the children's section whenever I browsed in bookstores as I got older, it didn't dawn on me that making children's books was something done by actual living people, something I might be able to do myself.
|color sketch for THE WHEELS ON THE BUS © Paul O. Zelinsky
|20th Anniversary Edition of THE WHEELS ON THE BUS
When did you start writing your own picture books, and how did that come about?
|© Paul O. Zelinsky
But I'm also aware of the difference between receiving accolades and the real purpose of the whole enterprise, which is children (or anybody) seriously bonding with books-- getting out of my books what I've tried to put in. That is more important by far, and when it happens, this is what makes me happiest.
After finishing the illustrations for this would-be shape book, I couldn't let it go, so I made (with help) what I think is a fun animated trailer.
Unlike most trailers, this one doesn't tell you much about the book. It's a talk show interview with the book itself, in which things go seriously wrong. I had a lot of friends do the voices; you'll recognize most of their names. Also, I made a Moose shape pattern that can be printed out on fabric or even wallpaper, so that it could become a shirt for me to wear if I go out talking about the book (http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/3245625 ).
And I am working on another TOYS book by Emily Jenkins, but it's not a sequel or prequel to the TOYS GO OUT trilogy. It's a young picture book about the same characters, Lumphy, StingRay and Plastic. It's called TOYS MEET SNOW.
|© Paul O. Zelinksky
|© Paul O. Zelinsky
Breaking in to publishing was never easy; there have always been a lot of people hoping to get published. But I think it's probably harder now than when I started, because the pace of life for publishers is much more hectic and they don't have time to look for and nurture new talent as much. Or so I hear.
Paul O. Zelinsky's illustrations have won wide acclaim and many awards, including the Caldecott Medal for his retelling of Rapunzel and three Caldecott Honors, for HANSEL AND GRETEL, RUMPELSTILTSKIN, and SWAMP ANGEL, whose 2010 sequel DUST DEVIL was a New York Times Notable Book. Zelinsky is known for the variability of style and genre in his books, which range from his classical fairy tales to the much-loved movable book THE WHEELS ON THE BUS to illustrations for children's novels such as Beverly Cleary's RALPH S. MOUSE (original edition) and her Newbery-winning DEAR MR. HENSHAW. Paul Zelinsky and his wife live in Brooklyn without their two grown daughters. They have no pets and are cutting down on the house plants.