Yorinks, Arthur 1953-
YORINKS, Arthur 1953-
PERSONAL: Born August 21, 1953, in Roslyn, NY; son of Alexander (a mechanical engineer) and Shirley (a fashion illustrator; maiden name, Kron) Yorinks; married Adrienne Berg (an artist and illustrator), October 23, 1983. Education: Attended New School for Social Research and Hofstra New College, 1971. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, theater, dogs, visiting art museums.
CAREER: Author and illustrator of children's books; writer for opera, ballet, film, and theater. American Mime Theatre, New York, NY, writer, teacher, and performer, 1969-79; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, instructor in theater arts, 1972-79; New Works Project, New York, NY, associate director, beginning 1977; Moving Theatre, New York, NY, founder, artistic director, 1979; The Night Kitchen (a national children's theater), New York, NY, cofounder and associate artistic director, 1990—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Books of the Year selections, School Library Journal, 1980, for Louis the Fish, 1988, for Bravo, Minski, 1989, for Oh, Brother, and 1990, for Ugh; Children's Editor's Choice, Booklist, 1984, for It Happened in Pinsk; Notable Book selection, American Library Association (ALA), 1986, Little Archer Award, Department of Library and Learning Resources, University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh, 1988, and Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1988, all for Hey, Al; Ten Best Books of the Year selection, Redbook, and Notable Book selection, ALA, both 1988, both for Company's Coming.
Sid and Sol, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1977.
(Under pseudonym Alan Yaffe) The Magic Meatballs, illustrated by Karen B. Anderson, Dial (New York, NY), 1979.
Louis the Fish, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1980.
It Happened in Pinsk, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1983.
Hey, Al, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1986.
Bravo, Minski, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1988.
Company's Coming, illustrated by David Small, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.
Oh, Brother, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1989.
Ugh, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.
Christmas in July, illustrated by Richard Egielski, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Whitefish Will Rides Again!, illustrated by Mort Drucker, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
The Miami Giant, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Frank and Joey Go to Work (based on So, Sue Me), illustrated by Maurice Sendak, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 1996.
Frank and Joey Eat Lunch (based on So, Sue Me), illustrated by Maurice Sendak, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 1996.
Tomatoes from Mars, illustrated by Mort Drucker, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Harry and Lulu, illustrated by Martin Matje, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.
The Alphabet Atlas, illustrated by Adrienne Yorinks, letter art by Jeanyee Wong, Winslow Press (Delray Beach, FL), 1999.
The Flying Latke, illustrated by William Steig, photo illustrations by Paul Colin and author, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
The Floating Cow and Other Stories, Arthur A. Levine (New York, NY), 2000.
Company's Going, illustrated by David Small, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
(Self-illustrated) Everybody Sleeps, Winslow Press (Delray Beach, FL), 2002.
Quack!: To the Moon and Home Again, illustrated by Adrienne Yorinks, Abrams (New York, NY), 2003.
Matzoh Balls!: The Story of Passover, illustrated by Paul Cohen, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Monsters in Space, ("Seven Little Monsters" series; based on the characters by Maurice Sendak), illustrated by Raymond Jafelice, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
We Love You, Mama, ("Seven Little Monsters" series; based on the characters by Maurice Sendak), illustrated by Raymond Jafelice, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
Harry and Lulu in the Himalayas, illustrated by Martin Matje, Hyperion (New York, NY), in press.
Six, produced in New York, NY, at Hunter College Playhouse, November, 1973.
The Horse, produced in New York, NY, at Cornelia Street Cafe, November, 1978.
Crackers, produced in New York, NY, at Theatre of the Open Eye, June, 1979.
The King, produced in New York, NY, at South Street Theatre, July, 1980.
Kissers, produced in New York, NY, at South Street Theatre, July, 1980.
Piece for a Small Cafe, produced in New York, NY, at Cornelia Street Cafe, February, 1981.
Piece for a Larger Cafe, produced in New York, NY, at Cornelia Street Cafe, April, 1982.
So, Sue Me (also see above), produced in Washington, DC, at the Kennedy Center, September, 1993.
It's Alive!, produced in New York, NY, at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 1994.
Leipziger Kerzenspiel, produced at Mt. Holyoke College, 1984.
The Juniper Tree, music by Philip Glass and Robert Moran, Dunvagen Music (New York, NY), 1985, produced at the American Repertory Theater, Boston, MA, 1985.
(Adapter, with Philip Glass) The Fall of the House of Usher, produced at American Repertory Theater, Boston, MA, May, 1988.
Sid and Sol (screenplay; adapted from his book of the same name), Four Penny Productions, 1982.
Story by Arthur Yorinks, Pictures by Richard Egielski (video), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.
Also author of a full-length story ballet commissioned by the Hartford Ballet; author of a screenplay, "Making Scents," developed by A & M Films; author, with film director Michael Powell, of screenplay Usher; and coauthor, with Maurice Sendak, of the text for the dance A Selection.
ADAPTATIONS: Louis the Fish was produced as an episode of Reading Rainbow, PBS-TV, 1983. Louis the Fish and Sid and Sol have both been adapted into cassette with hardcover book sets by Random House; Hey, Al, was adapted for videocassette by Spoken Arts (Holmes, NY), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Author of two dozen picture books and numerous stage plays, Arthur Yorinks is known for his outrageous and sometimes surreal stories which are frequently accompanied by the carefully composed, realistic illustrations of Richard Egielski, David Small, and Maurice Sendak. From Sid and Sol, in which a small man stands up to a formidable giant, to Company's Coming and its 2001 sequel, Company's Going, in which a woman graciously invites aliens to dinner, Yorinks's bizarre tales are told with deadpan humor that delights readers. According to Alice Miller Bregman in the New York Times Book Review, the "genius" of Yorinks's "understated texts . . . is that he knows what's truly important to youngsters."
The plots of some of Yorinks's stories demonstrate the futility of complaining, wishing to be someone else, or envying the possessions of others. Other tales stress the importance of tolerance and flexibility. While such morals are easily grasped by children, some critics assert that the best work of Yorinks and Egielski features irony and dark humor that mature readers will appreciate. In books like Louis the Fish and Hey, Al, insisted Bill Ott in the New York Times Book Review, adults will experience the "rare pleasure of finding a perverse subtext trapped in the straitjacket of 'positive moral values.'" For example, according to Ott, It Happened in Pinsk demonstrates that "life is one long complaint."
While children may recognize Yorinks as a favorite author, writing picture books is just one of his many talents. He has written several one-act plays which have been produced in New York City. Two of his opera librettos, combined with the music of the famous minimalist composer Philip Glass, were produced at the American Repertory Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. Yorinks has studied piano, ballet, and acting, performs as a mime, and acts. Yorinks also teaches acting, founding The Moving Theatre in 1979, and, in 1990, a national children's theater with the renowned picture-book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.
"It seems I've always been involved in some form of the arts," Yorinks once told CA. For seven years of his childhood, Yorinks formally trained as a classical pianist with Robert Bedford. From Bedford, he "learned a great deal of what it means to be an artist." Yorinks's mother, a fashion illustrator, was also influential; "I think it was through those early years of watching and drawing with my mother that pictures became very important to me," Yorinks once explained to CA.
With an illustrator friend, Michael DePaolo, Yorinks began to create comic books in junior high school. Later, in high school, he became interested in the picture book genre. He once remarked, "Discovering Tomi Ungerer, William Steig, particularly Maurice Sendak, was a turning point. I was already a young adult, and I saw clearly that their books weren't just kids books. They were for everyone. They had such depth and excitement and had everything I was interested in—drama, pictures, rhythm, music."
Yorinks began to write his own picture books and, at the age of sixteen, "summoned all the courage I had and did something that was to have an enormous effect" on his "life and work," Yorinks once explained in. "I showed up at Maurice Sendak's door unannounced. . . . It was presumptuous of me, bordering on obnoxious, but my way of learning was always to talk to people I considered among the best at what they did. . . . I walked up to Maurice's door, and as I was about to ring the bell, I lost my nerve. Just as I turned to leave, the door opened and a man (Sendak? I wasn't even certain it was him) said, 'Can I help you?'
"'Would you like to see some of my stories?,' I blurted out.
"'Well,' he said in a slightly flustered voice, 'send them to me.'
"I had them with me and I simply handed him my bundle. To have my work read and commented on by Maurice Sendak was a dream come true." The two ultimately became friends, and have collaborated not only on picture books, but also on stage productions. Yorinks once admitted, "Maurice has been a big help and a constant inspiration. I still think he is the contemporary standard for picture books and children's literature in general."
After graduating from high school, as he once related, Yorinks began to explore and develop his many interests. "I became involved in theater by studying ballet and acting and ended up at the American Mime Theatre. For ten years I wrote plays, performed, and taught with the theatre company. Looking back, this was excellent training for picture books. In a mime play, there is no dialogue. The spectacle is all images. Plot, relationships, passage of time are all communicated through action and the 'pictures' made by the performers. In a real sense, the actors are the pictures. The scripts I wrote were blocks of prose—this happens, then this happens, then this. I had to deal with character, situation, place and narrative without describing anything. This, as I was to learn, was pretty much the best way to write picture books."
In the late 1970s, one of Sendak's suggestions led to another turning point in Yorinks's career. As Yorinks once elaborated: "I had sold a manuscript to a publisher, but as yet they hadn't found an illustrator, a situation which was to drag on for years before it fell apart altogether. I was miserable, as this was my first book, and it was sitting there, crying out for pictures. One day I was talking with Sendak, who told me that he'd had a student at Parsons who would be terrific for my work. His name was Richard (Sendak was not able to remember his last name)."
Yorinks went to Parsons to find Richard, whom Sendak had described, and found him standing by an elevator. "I was shy, but desperate, so I tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'Richard.' He turned around and looked at me as if I was about to pick his pocket!" After Yorinks told Egielski how he'd recognized him and explained the purpose of his visit, the pair reviewed Egielski's portfolio. "I had never seen work like his. . . . Maurice was absolutely right about Richard Egielski being the perfect illustrator for my stories."
According to George Shannon in a School Library Journal review of Louis the Fish, "Yorinks and Egielski work together as if they were one." Yorinks once described his working relationship with Egielski: "By the time I show Richard a story, it's almost finished. It may need some fine tuning, but essentially it's all there. If he likes it, we talk—generally quite briefly—about how I came up with the story, what inspired it, what I was reading at the time I wrote it. I never have any kind of image of what the book should look like or what the pictures should feel like. The real fun for me is having to wait while Richard does his storyboard. When he shows it to me, it's like Christmas. All of a sudden I see things I never would have thought of in conjunction with the story. They were buried—apparently without my being conscious of them—in the text."
Yorinks's collaboration with Egielski allows him to live up to his principles of book creation. According to Yorinks, he has "dedicated" himself to the picture book "art form in the tradition of those artists who look upon the picture book as a medium where the marriage of words and pictures is all important, and the seam that binds them together is all but invisible. Too many picture books of today have sorry texts used only as vehicles for a set of pictures, like a description attached to a portfolio. That is not what I believe picture books should be. It is a serious art form, most exact. And it is with the responsibility of any artistic pursuit that Richard Egielski . . . and I approach each new work."
Yorinks and Egielski's first project was published in 1977. Sid and Sol features a giant, Sol, who threatens the world with his mighty power. World leaders advertise for a giant killer, and the only person to respond is Sid. Despite his small size, Sid accomplishes his task by convincing the giant to build a tall tower and climb it. When the giant falls to his death, the Grand Canyon is created. Welcoming Yorinks and Egielski in the New York Times Book Review, Maurice Sendak rejoiced in the duo's "deft and exciting collaboration," and praised Yorinks's "gorgeous writing" and "cool audacity to mix purest nonsense with cockeyed fact."
In the wake of the success of Sid and Sol, Yorinks and Egielski published Louis the Fish, a story inspired by Austro-Czech writer Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, in which a man wakes to find himself transformed into an insect. In the opinion of Ott, Louis the Fish provides "irony in its purest form" as it sends a message: "No matter what we have, it's not what we want." Although Louis comes from a family of butchers and is a butcher himself, he hates meat. He thinks of nothing but fish and then, finally, is transformed into a happy salmon with silvery scales and big lips. Flashbacks recall Louis's human life, in which he was surrounded by meat. According to Shannon, Louis the Fish is "an exciting tale" in which "no words are wasted."
Yorinks once noted that his next book, It Happened in Pinsk, "grew out of his reverence for [Russian writer Nikolai] Gogol, and particularly my love for his story 'The Nose' in which one morning a man wakes up without his nose. As is my habit, when I have read and loved a work by a given author, I read everything he's done, as well as biographies of him. . . . When Richard and I talked about my story, I mentioned Gogol and my infatuation with pre-revolutionary Russia. I would have loved to have opened my piece with a two- or three-page description of Nevsky Avenue—something I couldn't do in a picture book.
"Richard's double-page spread more than satisfied the craving I had to have the street described. It's very filmic, as though the camera was coming from a great distance at a very slow pace, lighting one image after another, after another. You get many tantalizing hints about what is going to happen in the book from this one illustration. . . . I'mnot permitted to explain the text in detail, but as Richard echoed the text in his visuals, nothing was lost—in fact, much was gained."
According to Ott in the New York Times Book Review, the protagonist of It Happened in Pinsk is characterized "as the perennially dissatisfied modern man." Although Irv Irving has a nice wife, fine clothes, and good food, he is sure he would rather be someone else—a wrestler, a tycoon, a widow with a mansion. One day at breakfast he notices that his head is missing. Irv's wife fashions him a head from a pillowcase and some socks, and he wanders the city in search of his head. His substitute head gets him into much trouble as he is mistaken for various scoundrels. The story is resolved after Irv states his acceptance of his identity and finds his head. Marguerite Feitlowitz praised It Happened in Pinsk in a New York Times Book Review, commenting that Yorinks's and Egielski's "work is unusual, vivacious, hilarious and touching."
For Yorinks and Egielski's next work, Hey, Al, Egielski received one of the picture book genre's most prestigious awards, the Caldecott Medal. In this story, Al, a janitor, and his loyal dog, Eddie, are visited by a huge purple bird offering to take them to paradise. They eagerly accept the bird's invitation—they have had enough of Al's cleaning job and their small New York apartment. Al and Eddie enjoy the beautiful and bountiful island in the sky until they begin to grow beaks and feathers and realize that the price of paradise is to become a bird. They return to their safe apartment, molt, and happily paint their room yellow. Kenneth Marantz suggested in School Library Journal that the "theme" of Hey, Al is "be happy with who you are," or "there's no free lunch." In the opinion of New York Times Book Review contributor Judith Viorst, Hey, Al delivers a moral about "even the humblest home" with "warmth and wit and imagination." Reviewing the 2001 video recording of Hey, Al, Marilyn Hersh, writing in School Library Journal, found the story "delightful," and further noted that "everything about this tender, morality based fantasy is expertly executed."
Bravo, Minski features a child prodigy whose life has, as a critic for Kirkus Reviews observed, "inescapable parallels" to that of classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Minski, however, is a great scientist, discovering gravity and electricity. As the inventor of aspirin, automobiles, airplanes, eyeglasses, light bulbs, and telephones, he becomes famous. Scientists like Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein anachronistically show up in the eighteenth century to pay tribute to the boy. Nevertheless, the young scientist's dream is to sing—he works diligently until he creates a formula to make him an artist with a "heavenly" voice. One of the messages in this book, according to Washington Post reviewer Selma G. Lanes, is to "follow your own enthusiasms." Aside from the message, as Patricia Dooley observed in School Library Journal, the "deadpan illogicality and gay absurdity" of Bravo, Minski "should leave children giddy."
Yorinks's "tongue-in-cheek tone," as Betsy Hearne of Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books called it, coupled with Egielski's "satirical . . . softly rounded shapes and absurdly deadpan characters" prove a winning combination in Oh, Brother. In this story, the constant fighting of twin twentieth-century English brothers, Milton and Morris, sets the course of their life. On a voyage with their parents, the twins explore the forbidden hold and, as they fight over a skyrocket, destroy the ship. The boys survive the wreck, land in New York City, and live in orphanages before going to work in the circus. There, they wash elephants and even get a chance to work on the flying trapezes. Once again, however, their fighting causes them trouble, and they are fired. When they attempt to earn a living by selling apples, they get in an argument and waste the apples by throwing them at each other.
Finally, when the boys resort to thievery, their pick-pocketing attempt is foiled. Their intended victim, Nathan, takes the boys home to live with him and serve as his apprentice tailors. Although they learn reluctantly, they become excellent tailors and even grow to love Nathan. When he dies, they secretly pretend to be his cousins and continue his work so well that they receive an invitation to meet the Queen of England. In her court, they are recognized by their parents (the Queen's gardener and nanny), who survived the shipwreck; the family is happily reunited, and Milton and Morris become the personal tailors of the Prince of Wales. Writing in School Library Journal, Linda Boyles concluded that adults will "appreciate Yorinks's wry humor, while kids are sure to enjoy the antics of the obnoxious twins." Cathleen Schine asserted in the New York Times Book Review that Oh, Brother is Yorinks and Egielski's "finest work to date," a book which demonstrates that childhood is "not just another time but another world."
Ugh is set "Many, many, many, many, many, many years ago," in a prehistoric landscape. In this tale, the Cinderella-like Ugh is forced to do all the cavework while his sisters and brothers play and watch dinosaurs eat trees. Ugh secretly invents a bicycle, and accidentally rides it into a group of world leaders. Thinking he will be punished, Ugh hides. The leaders recognize the importance of the invention, however, and vow that the inventor will be king. Just as the prince found Cinderella, Ugh is found to be the inventor and is crowned king with a saber-tooth crown. Disturbed by their inability to claim the invention as their own, Ugh's brothers and sisters jump into the ocean, where a whale devours them. School Library Journal reviewer Karen James thought that the "pidgin English" used "to indicate a primitive peoples' language" might offend some readers, but Hearne of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books concluded that Ugh is the "real winner" among the Yorinks-Egielski books. She asked, "Who wouldn't want to hear . . . this uniquely American tall tale of material success?"
Christmas in July begins when Santa takes his pants to the cleaners. The cleaners accidentally return Santa's pants to the wrong person, a wealthy man named Rich Rump. Santa follows Rich Rump to his home in New York City, where he is forced to beg for pants. The police arrest him for loitering, and Santa is sentenced to six months in jail. Upon his release, Santa learns that his absence at Christmas had terrible effects on the world. Fortunately, he sees Rich Rump, now poor, trying to unload his pants on the streets. Rich Rump gives Santa the pants, Rudolph and the other reindeer arrive with Santa's sleigh, and Santa takes off to bring Christmas to the world—in July. According to a critic for School Library Journal, the "phrasing is clever" and the "pacing is quick." Roger Sutton of Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books commented that the "dry and sly" humor is not successful "in disguising the fact that this book is an old-fashioned Christmas heartwarmer."
Yorinks has worked with illustrators other than Egielski on a number of books, and since 1991, has turned to illustrators such as Maurice Sendak, Mort Drucker, David Small, and to his wife, Adrienne Yorinks, for artwork. Company's Coming, illustrated by Small, is, in the words of a Kirkus Reviews critic, "deliciously funny." Shirley and Moe are outside preparing for a visit from some cousins when Shirley notices a "barbecue" that turns out to be a flying saucer. When helmeted aliens that look like cockroaches emerge from the saucer, they ask for a bathroom and get an invitation to Shirley's party. Unlike Shirley, Moe is not a gracious host—he telephones the FBI, which alerts the Pentagon, and the Pentagon mobilizes the army, air force, and the marines.
By the time the aliens return for dinner, the armed forces are in position and invade the dinner party. Nevertheless, once everyone realizes that the present the aliens have brought Shirley and Moe is a blender, and not a bomb, everyone sits down for a spaghetti dinner. School Library Journal contributor David Gale thought that children would be delighted by Yorinks's "dry humor" and "deadpan telling" of a tale about "faulty assumptions and over-reacting." "Yorinks's dialogue is as well timed as the best comedy act," wrote Bregman in the New York Times Book Review.
Yorinks and Small reprised the unexpected alien guests in the 2001 title, Company's Going, a book, according to Horn Book reviewer Martha V. Parravano, that "is, if anything, funnier than the first, and less preachy as well." In this tale, the friendly aliens request that Moe and Shirley cater their sister's wedding. Only problem is, the wedding is taking place on Nextoo, a planet that is, of course, next to Uranus. Moe and Shirley are doubtful, but finally agree. When they arrive on Nextoo, however, the locals react negatively to these Earthly aliens—whom they mistake for Martians—and zap the couple with a ray gun. The bride-to-be is disconsolate, with the wedding seemingly ruined. But all ends happily, as Moe and Shirley recover—now cured of their arthritis—and cook up a mess of meatballs and then dance the night away. Parravano lauded the "broadly humorous, blithely innocent story," but Booklist's Michael Cart was not as impressed. For him, "the humor seems a bit forced." A Publishers Weekly reviewer, however, found the sequel a "droll follow-up to Company's Coming," and concluded that "this comical collaboration makes a very good company." More praise came from Deborah Stevenson, who noted in a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books review that "youngsters more inclined towards E.T. than Buck Rogers will be ready to take off with this."
Yorinks worked with illustrator Drucker for Whitefish Will Rides Again! Whitefish Will, readers learn at the beginning of the book, is "just about the best danged sheriff that ever lived." Having put away the cattle rustlers that plagued his town, Sheriff Will has nothing left to do but tend to his flock of roosters and play the harmonica. Yet when Bart and his band of bad guys ride into town, Will saves the day with his trusty harmonica. "No question 'bout it," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly, "kids gonna love this one."
The pair teamed up again for the 1999 title, Tomatoes from Mars, in which the aforementioned tomatoes land on Minneapolis, Minnesota, and then proceed to drop all over the United States and the rest of the Earth, as well. When the red fruits stain not only the Statue of Liberty, but also Mount Rushmore and the White House, wise minds know something must be done. Strange Dr. Shtickle steps up to the plate and belts a homerun with his discovery that a dollop of salad dressing will send the tomatoes back to where they came. Not as well received as the duo's earlier effort, this collaborative effort was found to have "less-than-clever results," by a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly felt that "this shtick doesn't quite cut the mustard."
Beginning in 1990, Yorinks began working with Sendak to create The Night Kitchen, a national children's theater. Their goal was to provide quality children's plays and operas, rather than the simplified performances of adult theater which are usually the norm. The two have extended that collaborative effort into other plays and dance theater, as well as to books. The Miami Giant follows the adventures of an Italian explorer, Giuseepe Giaweeni, who sets out for China and discovers Miami instead. There he finds a tribe of giants who dance gleefully; Giaweeni convinces the head of the tribe, Joe Mishbooker, to come back to Europe with him where he will surely become a star. In the event, theatergoers are not so enthusiastic; Joe eventually returns to Miami, and the intrepid explorer ends up discovering Boca.
Adapting the stage production of Yorinks's play So, Sue Me to board book format, Sendak and the author also collaborated on Frank and Joey Go to Work and Frank and Joey Eat Lunch. The two construction workers of the title get into some "simple—and funny—trouble" in this pair of books, according to Horn Book's Sutton, discussing both works. Joey drops Frank's huge sandwich off the building site, to land on a passerby in Frank and Joey Eat Lunch, while Joey loses his boots and pants when he steps in fresh cement in Go to Work. Elizabeth Bush lauded the "classic beefy guy/dweeby guy comedy team" in a review of both titles for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
In Harry and Lulu, Yorinks paired with illustrator Martin Matje to create "an odd twist on the usual fantasy of a child who believes a toy is real," according to School Library Journal's Kate McClelland. Lulu is pining for a dog, and when her parents give her a stuffed poodle instead, the little girl delivers a first-class tantrum. Later that night, however, Lulu discovers that her little red poodle named Harry can talk, telling Lulu he is going back to his native France. She decides to follow along, and walking down the street, they end up in Paris in the morning. There the clever poodle saves Lulu from a cab, and she returns the favor, saving him when he falls in the Seine. Returning to Lulu's home, the two have become best of friends. A critic for Kirkus Reviews, while noting that this story is not quite a "Velveteen Rabbit for the '90s," did find that the tale "captures a child in several deeply recognizable moments." Booklist's Ilene Cooper felt that the artwork "suits the tale perfectly," and further noted that Harry and Lulu was "an insouciant yet sweet story."
In The Flying Latke, Yorinks pairs with William Steig for a Hanukkah tale of a very different sort. An argument over the make of the car that cut off two uncles earlier in the day results in a food fight on the first night of Hanukkah, during which a latke gets tossed so hard that it goes ballistic. Flying out over the New Jersey Turnpike, it is mistaken for a flying saucer by the air force. When the uncles' attempts to tell the world the truth of this latke/UFO fail, they are besieged by reporters and virtually imprisoned in their own home for the next eight days. During this time the family is forced to survive on the remaining latkes, a real Hanukkah miracle. Danny, the young boy of the family, narrates this tale in a manner that "has the roll and rhythm of a family story punctuated by bits of Yiddish and schtick," according to Janice M. Del Negro, writing in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Del Negro concluded, "To say that this is a tale made to be read aloud would be an understatement of colossal proportions." Similarly, Teri Markson, writing in School Library Journal, felt this "is a very funny story that simply begs to be read aloud after the menorah is lit and the latkes are just a grease spot on a plate."
Yorinks has also collaborated with his fabric-artist wife, Adrienne, on The Alphabet Atlas and Quack!: To the Moon and Home Again, two books with simplified text. Fabric from the twenty-five nations included in the alphabet book provides the illustrations, along with a calligraphic rendition of each letter. A critic for Kirkus Reviews had praise for the artwork, noting that "this alphabet of countries makes a magnificent showcase for Adrienne Yorinks's textile art."
In Quack!, a duck goes off to the moon after viewing the object from afar through his telescope. Plagued by a bout of homesickness, however, the duck eventually parachutes back to Earth. The tale is told in English as well as in the one-word duck language, Quack. Again, the story features fabric collages by Adrienne Yorinks. A contributor for Publishers Weekly found the result "fine feathered fun," while School Library Journal critic Kristin de Lacoste predicted, "Although this is an odd duck of a book, very young children will love saying the word quack over and over again."
Yorinks believes that creating picture books for children is a serious responsibility. "Children's first books are often picture books," he once remarked. "From picture books, children get their first inkling about literature and visual art. The importance of picture books is therefore profound. The stories and images adults make for children may well say more about a given society than anything else. Children deserve the best we can offer—authentic and uncompromising art."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Books and Their Creators, edited by Anita Silvey, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 20, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990, pp. 213-218.
Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, edited by Bernice E. Cullinan and Diane G. Person, Continuum International (New York, NY), 2001, p. 839.
Lanes, Selma G., The Art of Maurice Sendak, edited by Robert Morton, Abrams (New York, NY), 1980, pp. 251-270.
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, edited by Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Yorinks, Arthur, Ugh, illustrated by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.
Yorinks, Arthur, Whitefish Will Rides Again!, illustrated by Mort Drucker, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Avenue, October, 1994, p. 13.
Bookcase, April, 1995, p. 16.
Booklist, October 1, 1979; December 15, 1988, p. 716; April 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Harry and Lulu, p. 1409; January 1, 2002, Michael Cart, review of Company's Going, pp. 868-869; April 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Quack!: To the Moon and Home Again, p. 1404.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1981, p. 124; November, 1989, Betsy Hearne, review of Oh, Brother, p. 74; November, 1990, Betsy Hearne, review of Ugh, p. 75; Roger Sutton, November, 1991, review of Christmas in July, p. 80; February, 1997, Elizabeth Bush, review of Frank and Joey Go to Work and Frank and Joey Eat Lunch, p. 228; November, 1999, Janice M. Del Negro, review of The Flying Latke, p. 112; January, 2002, Deborah Stevenson, review of Company's Going, p. 189.
Horn Book, January-February, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of The Miami Giant, pp. 70-71; January-February, 1997, Roger Sutton, review of Frank and Joey Go to Work and Frank and Joey Eat Lunch, p. 53; January-February, 2002, Martha V. Parravano, review of Company's Going, pp. 74-75.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1977, p. 1265; November 15, 1980, p. 1463; January 15, 1988, review of Company's Coming, p. 130; October 15, 1988, review of Bravo, Minski, p. 1536; March 15, 1999, review of Harry and Lulu, p. 459; May 15, 1999, review of The Alphabet Atlas, p. 807; October 15, 1999, review of Tomatoes from Mars, p. 1654; January 1, 2003, review of Quack!, p. 68.
Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1979.
New York Times, October 23, 1994; October, 28, 1994.
New York Times Book Review, December 10, 1978, Maurice Sendak, "The Giant and the Runt," p. 72; December 18, 1983, Marguerite Feitlowitz, review of It Happened in Pinsk, p. 20; January 11, 1987, Judith Viorst, review of Hey, Al, p. 38; January 10, 1988, Bill Ott, "A Convention of Grousers," p. 37; May 8, 1988, Alice Miller Bregman, "Dinner Guests from Outer Space," p. 38; May 13, 1990, Cathleen Schine, review of Oh, Brother, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, November 11, 1988, p. 54; July 11, 1994, review of Whitefish Will Rides Again!, p. 77; March 29, 1999, review of Harry and Lulu, p. 103; September 27, 1999, review of The Flying Latke, p. 52; October 18, 1999, review of Tomatoes from Mars, p. 81; November 5, 2001, review of Company's Going, p. 68; January 6, 2003, review of Quack!, p. 57.
Reporter Dispatch, October 17, 1994.
School Library Journal, November, 1980, George Shannon, review of Louis the Fish, p. 68; March, 1987, Kenneth Marantz, review of Hey, Al, pp. 151-152; February, 1988, David Gale, review of Company's Coming, p. 66; December, 1988, Patricia Dooley, review of Bravo Minski, pp. 95-96; December, 1989, Linda Boyles, review of Oh, Brother, p. 92; December, 1990, Karen James, review of Ugh, p. 91; October, 1991, review of Christmas in July, p. 35; January, 1998, review of Oh, Brother, p. 43; May, 1999, Kate McClelland, review of Harry and Lulu, pp. 101-102; July, 1999, Linda Greengrass, review of The Alphabet Atlas, p. 91; October, 1999, Teri Markson, review of The Flying Latke, p. 72; January, 2000, Margaret Bush, review of Tomatoes from Mars, p. 114; June, 2001, Marilyn Hersh, review of Hey, Al (videocassette), p. 64; February, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Company's Going, p. 116; April, 2003, Kristin de Lacoste, review of Quack!, p. 144.
Teaching K-8, November-December, 1991.
Time, July 26, 1999, Terry Teachout, "A Selection: Pilobolus Dance Theatre," p. 76.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 25, 1987, p. 4.
Washington Post, September 21, 1993.
Washington Post Book World, February 15, 1987, p. 13; November 6, 1988, Selma G. Lanes, "Lookin' Real Good," p. 14.*