Daniel Pinkwater

Daniel Pinkwater

Daniel Manus Pinkwater (born November 15, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, United States) is an author of mostly children's books and is an occasional commentator on National Public Radio. He attended Bard College. Well-known 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. His collections of NPR essays (most notably Fish Whistle) explain that 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 in the past, although for more recent works that task has passed to his wife Jill Pinkwater. His artistic style varies from work to work, with some books illustrated in computer drawings, others in woodcuts and others in Magic Marker. He does not work in any set category. Rather, his work is intended for a wide variety of ages, with books ranging from picture books to adult fiction.

Pinkwater varies his name slightly between books (for instance, "Daniel Pinkwater", "Daniel M. Pinkwater", "Daniel Manus Pinkwater", "D. Manus Pinkwater"). Allegedly, he claims that he does this in order to annoy the librarians who have to catalogue his books. His parents were Jewish and emigrated from Poland before he was born. He describes his father as a "ham-eating, iconoclastic Jew."



Pinkwater tends to write books 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), and 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 (a repertory movie theatre on Clark Street in the 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 many characters speaking in Yiddish-influenced dialogue or participating in Borscht Belt culture (vampires).

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]

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)
  • Much, 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)

Young adult/Teen novels

  • Wingman (1975)
  • Lizard Music (1976)
  • The Last Guru (1978)
  • Alan Mendelsohn, Boy From Mars (1979)
  • Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario (1979)
  • The Worms of Kukumlima (1981)
  • The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (1982)
  • Young Adult Novel (1982)
  • The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror (1984)
  • Borgel (1990)
  • The Education of Robert Nifkin (1999)
  • The Neddiad : How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization (2006)
  • The Yggysey (2008)
  • The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl (2010)
  • Escape to Dwerg Mountain[4] (TBD)
  • Bushman Lives[5](TBD)


  • 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

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 Toonpedia), accessed on May 10, 2007.
  2. ^ This American Life episode #43: Faustian Bargains, broadcast 22 November 1996
  3. ^ "Fall 2004 SWAL Conference Information". Southwest Wisconsin Association of Libraries Conferences. Archived from the original on Jan 15, 2011. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:gH6veCPSR8gJ:www.uwplatt.edu/swal/Conferences/Fall04Conference.htm+http://www.uwplatt.edu/swal/Conference/Fall04Conference.htm&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  4. ^ mention of sequel on the last page of The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl
  5. ^ Bushman Lives -- About the Book
  • Daniel Manus Pinkwater. Entry in Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2005. Accessed 2005-09-27.

Further reading

  • Pinkwater, Daniel (1987-11-08). "The Revenge of Pinkwater". The Washington Post. 
  • Waldrop, Howard (1989-10-01). "Daniel Pinkwater Weighs In". The Washington Post. 

External links

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