Editor's note: The Honolulu Academy of Arts provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Honolulu Academy of Arts directly through either this phone number or web address:



Wisdom and Wonder: Children's Book Illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky

May 5 - July 31, 2004


(above: Paul O. Zelinsky, Rapunzel in the Tower, 1997, watercolor and oil, 18 x 13 3/4 inches)


Enter the wonderful world of Grimm's fairytales adapted and illustrated by Caldecott Award winning artist, Paul O. Zelinsky. "Rapunzel," "Rumplestiltskin" and "Hansel and Gretel" (retold by Rika Lesser) are brought to life in delightful images enhanced with rich color and pattern that reflect the style of the Renaissance. In writing of "Rapunzel," Zelinsky says, "I could have set the tale in any time or place, historical or wildly fantastical. But I chose to make the settings about as real as possible, though not in the reality of today; rather, in Italy, in 1500, when people's clothes looked so wonderful, and there really were kings and queens living in castles." (left: Paul O. Zelinsky, Rumpelstiltskin Spins Straw into Gold, 1986, watercolor and oil, 15 x 11 inches)

Paul O. Zelinsky grew up in a Chicago suburb, the son of a mathematics professor and a medical illustrator. "During my elementary school years I was always collaborating with classmates to create imaginary worlds and the stories to take place in them, and putting it all down in pictures." It was not until he took a course from Maurice Sendak at Yale, however, that he realized his future might be as an illustrator of children's books. Zelinsky went on to receive a graduate degree in painting from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and Rome. Noted for his versatility, he has become one of the most successful and critically acclaimed illustrators in the field.

In the Academy exhibition, the images glow with color as they are spotlighted against a dark blue wall. In these works, Zelinsky began by using a complete (monochrome) underpainting in watercolor, then sealed it with acrylic medium and painted over with oils. Interactive labels incorporate questions, which require visitors to look closely at the images.

The question and answer format encourages dialogue between child and parent or accompanying adult. Some of the queries relate to the child. In "Hansel and Gretel," for example, when the children are left by their parents in the forest, the label asks, "What kind of place is this? How would you feel if you were here? What time is it? Do you think their parents will return? What should Hansel and Gretel do? What would you do?" In the next image, they come upon the house in the woods. The label says, "What is used to build the house? The children are very hungry. If you were Hansel and Gretel what part of the house would you eat first? Or would you think it might not be safe to eat?" It is interesting to note that adults seem to enjoy this format as much as children do. (right: Paul O. Zelinsky, Hansel and Gretel Find the House in the Woods, 1983, watercolor and oil, 11 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches)

In the center of the gallery is a reading area with a low table and brightly colored floor pillows. Visitors are invited to browse or read an entire book. Beside the three fairytale books featured in the exhibition are others that show the versatility for which Zelinsky is noted, including Caldecott winner, "Swamp Angel" (by Anne Isaacs) and the hugely popular pop-up book, "The Wheels on the Bus." Another recent pop-up, "Knick-Knack Paddywhack," was selected the New York Times Best Illustrated Book for 2002.

The exhibition is curated and designed by the Honolulu Academy of Arts Education Department and is the sixth in a series presented by the Academy in collaboration with the Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii's Children. Paul Zelinsky was selected the featured illustrator in the Conference and Nancy Willard featured author. The Conference will be held June 10-12 at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus Center and is open to the public. For information call (808) 956-7559.

Images are courtesy of Paul O. Zelinsky.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Honolulu Academy of Arts in Resource Library Magazine

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library Magazine for thousands of articles and essays on American art, calendars, and much more.

Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.