Banyai, Istvan

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Banyai, Istvan


Born in Budapest, Hungary; immigrated to United States, 1981; naturalized U.S. citizen; married; children: one son.


Home—New York, NY; CT. Agent—Betsy Hillman, P.O. Box 77644, San Francisco, CA 94107; [email protected] E-mail—[email protected]


Artist, designer, and animator. Has produced cover art for Sony, Verve, and Capitol Records; creator of animated short films for Nickelodeon and MTV Europe.

Awards, Honors

Children's Choice Award, International Reading Association, for Zoom.



Zoom, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.

Re-Zoom, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.

R.E.M.: Rapid Eye Movement, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.

Minus Equals Plus, introduction by Kurt Andersen, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.

The Other Side, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.


Eve Feldman, A Giant Surprise, Raintree Publishers (Milwaukee, WI), 1989.

Mark Ciabattari, Dreams of an Imaginary New Yorker Named Rizzoli, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.

Tom Dalzell, The Slang of Sin, Merriam-Webster (Springfield, MA), 1998.

Carl Sandburg, Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote, compiled and with an introduction by George and Willene Hendrick, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.

Linda Sue Park, Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (poems), Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Barbara Kerley, Greetings from Planet Earth, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to Atlantic Monthly, Time, New Yorker, Playboy, and Rolling Stone.


Hungarian-born American illustrator and animator Istvan Banyai has produced a number of surrealistic wordless picture books, including Zoom and The Other Side. In the words of New York Times Book Review contributor David Small, Banyai "likes to makes pictures that whip the viewer into a fury of fast-paced looking. His books make us feel like someone caught in a sudden rush of traffic. They draw us into a world in constant flux. Abrupt change and reversals are the order of the day."

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Banyai immigrated to the United States in 1981 and made his mark as an editorial cartoonist, with his work appearing in such publications as the Atlantic Monthly, Time, and Rolling Stone. He also created cover art for Sony and Verve Records as well as animated films for Nickelodeon and MTV Europe.

Banyai's picture-book debut, Zoom, appeared in 1995. Playing with the readers's sense of perspective, the work opens with a close-up of a rooster's comb; each successive illustration pulls back from the previous picture to reveal a larger scene. Viewers learn, for example, that the rooster is actually part of a toy farm set that is pictured on the cover of a magazine, and that the youngster holding the magazine is shown to be the focus of a cruise-line poster plastered on the side of a bus. "Not a story, but an ‘idea’ book," noted Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan, Zoom "makes the viewer ask, ‘What am I really seeing here?’" In Horn Book, Martha V. Parravano praised the work, remarking that "the layout is ingenious" and noting that the "concept and the book design are distinctive." Comparing Banyai's illustrations to the art found in such comic strips as Hal Foster's "Prince Valiant," a Publisher Weekly contributor called Zoom "a startling experience"; "Readers are in for a perpetually surprising—and even philosophical—adventure." In Re-Zoom, a companion volume, Banyai "toys not only with spatial relations but with time and with cultural referents," a Publishers Weekly critic wrote.

In his next wordless picture book, R.E.M.: Rapid Eye Movement, Banyai "does an ingenious job of invoking the hauntingly alternative reality of dreams," according to Michael Cart in Booklist. The work features a series of images in which ordinary objects undergo unusual transformations. "Banyai cleverly mixes the fantastic and the familiar," noted Cathryn M. Mercier in Horn Book, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that he "questions perception on every page, prompting readers either to make up stories for each scene or simply to draw inspiration from his cinematic way of thinking."

Banyai's The Other Side presents contrasting perspectives on a host of quirky scenarios; readers spying a small, red triangle turn the page to reveal a chick pecking at the paper on "the other side." Small applauded the illustrator's graphite sketches and computer-enhanced colors, stating that Banyai "blends the machine's lines so discreetly with his own precise freehand drawing style that it is often difficult to tell one from another. The results, always compelling, are often astonishing."

Banyai has also provided the artwork for titles by other authors, including Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote, a compilation of verse by beloved American poet Carl Sandburg, and Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo, a collection of poems by Linda Sue Park. In the former, which contains Sandburg's previously unpublished verse, Banyai's "playful ink drawings and computer graphics pick up the comedy," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Park's Tap Dancing on the Roof contains twenty-seven sijo, traditional Korean poems similar in form to haiku. "Banyai's illustrations enhance the collection with an extra element of wit and imaginative freedom," noted Horn Book contributor Deirdre F. Baker.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Banyai, Istvan, Minus Equals Plus, introduction by Kurt Andersen, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.


Booklist, February 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Zoom, p. 1007; July, 1997, Michael Cart, review of R.E.M.: Rapid Eye Movement, p. 1821; September 1,

1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough Vote, p. 136; August, 2001, Regina Schroeder, review of Minus Equals Plus, p. 2070; December 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Other Side, p. 45; December 1, 2007, Jennifer Mattson, review of Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo, p. 45.

Horn Book, September-October, 1995, Martha V. Parravano, review of Zoom, p. 585; January-February, 1996, Lolly Robinson, review of Re-Zoom, p. 59; May-June, 1997, Cathryn M. Mercier, review of R.E.M., p. 302; November-December, 2005, Lolly Robinson, review of The Other Side, p. 702; September-October, 2007, Deirdre F. Baker, review of Tap Dancing on the Roof, p. 595.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), June 17, 2001, Robert Armstrong, "Illustrator Masters Art for the 22nd Century," review of Minus Equals Plus, p. F15.

New York Times Book Review, May 16, 1999, Sean Kelly, review of Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough Vote; November 13, 2005, David Small, review of The Other Side, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, December 19, 1994, review of Zoom, p. 53; July 17, 1997, review of Re-Zoom, p. 228; April 14, 1997, review of R.E.M., p. 73; April 12, 1999, review of Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough Vote, p. 75; May 14, 2001, review of Minus Equals Plus, p. 71; October 24, 2005, review of The Other Side, p. 56; October 15, 2007, review of Tap Dancing on the Roof, p. 61.

School Library Journal, January, 2006, Carol L. MacKay, review of The Other Side, p. 90.


Istvan Banyai Home Page, (August 10, 2008).