- Virginia Johnson
How does this master of dry wit create? He imagines a boy, very much like he was, and tries to write a story that would please him. Like many excellent writers for kids and young adults, he has a terrific recall of what it feels like to be a bright, out-of-sync, yet amazingly well-adjusted, kid in a not totally indifferent world.
Daniel Manus Pinkwater was a well-traveled soul by his teens. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, moved to Chicago, then on to Los Angeles at age eight and back to Chicago again as a teenager. Not being a particularly tanned or svelte person, he found Chicago to be a much more friendly residence, although Los Angeles was where he first discovered art supplies. In high school, his friends were like the "Snarkout Boys" from his books-- not socially gifted in the mainstream, but together they formed a clever, friendly group of creative goofballs and truth-seekers.
The strange pops out of the urban fabric in Pinkwater's writing, grabs the hapless heroes or heroines by the shoelaces and makes them deal with it-- whether it's a 266-lb chicken, a brilliant intergalactic pooch, junk food-seeking space pirates, or the werewolf of Baconburg. Yet every good fantasy needs a grounding in reality. Pinkwater found his in small New Jersey towns or a weight-loss camp run by wicked counselors.
Did Daniel Pinkwater always plan on being a writer? No! He studied art at Bard College in New York's Hudson River Valley and apprenticed himself to a sculptor. After months of study, his new teacher declared that Pinkwater would never be a sculptor; he would be a writer.
Nevertheless, he did become a somewhat successful artist in New York City after graduation. By this time, he had moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, which he later chose as a perfect locale for his quirky tales of the unexpected. He also took courses in art therapy and later traveled to Africa and there joined an artists' cooperative of the Chagga tribe on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
He moved to New York and married Jill Schutz in 1969. She is a teacher as well as a writer and an artist. They have worked together on several projects. He published his first book, The Terrible Roar, under the name Manus Pinkwater. In the mid-70s, he and his wife operated a dog training school which resulted in a classic book for kid dog owners: Superpuppy: How to Choose, Raise, and Train the Best Possible Dog for You.
In 1987, he became a radio commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and Car Talk. He also reviewed books for their Weekend Edition, and created and co-hosted a program for young people called Chinwag Theater.
While all of Pinkwater's many books are fun and smart (as in smart-aleck) reads, these are some of his must-reads:
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
What a deal! When Arthur can't find any turkeys for sale the day before Thanksgiving, he buys a gigantic chicken.
Left home during a two-week family vacation, Victor enjoys staying up late, sleeping in, and eating anchovies with his pizza. The only problem: he's starting to notice lizards everywhere. Look for a cameo from the Chicken Man of Hoboken.
The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death
Walter and Winston set out to rescue the inventor of the Alligatron, a computer developed from an avocado which is the world's last defense against the space-realtors.
Daniel Pinkwater's latest silly stories include The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, Found Out Where They Went, and Went There and The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization.
Click here for all juvenile books owned in the library by Daniel Pinkwater. The library's databases, Biography in Context and Literature Resource Center, have articles that are extremely useful for reports. CRRL card holders can access these and other databases at no charge.
Pinkwater Roams the Web
266-pound Chicken Running Loose in Hoboken Again
This story from a New Jersey newspaper gives the lowdown on his latest book and details the joys of Hoboken that the author has included in his writing.
Author Daniel Pinkwater, 'Looking for Bobowicz'
Listen to the author talking about Looking for Bobowicz and other writings in this radio interview from the Fresh Air program on NPR.
Daniel Pinkwater: Commentator, All Things Considered
Biographical notes with an emphasis on how Mr. Pinkwater's radio career began.
Daniel Pinkwater: Frequently Asked Questions
Ask a simple question; get a silly answer. The author answers kids' questions on the Internet Public Library site.
The Official Pinkwater Page
"Greetings and words of wisdom from the beloved and warm-hearted 400-lb author."
Look here for his digital archive and links to his public radio program.