Daniel Pinkwater is an American author of children's books. His books have a number of recurring themes, including:
He tries to use a different version of his name — such as D. Manus Pinkwater, Daniel M. Pinkwater, D. Pinkwater, and so on — on every book he writes, allegedly to annoy librarians.
He was a important component of the radio show Chinwag Theater for a while, being that his books were read and he was the one who read them. He also reads children's books on NPR with Saturday Morning Edition
anchor Scott Simon. Sometimes he calls in to Car Talk
to expound on a car-related topic with Click and Clack.
He currently offers free audio versions of many of his books on his website
His books, and their tropes, include:Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars
: Two middle-school boys become psychically enlightened and travel to an alternate plane of existence.
- Badass Normal: Even before he becomes psychic Alan can do the Missile Whistle, a whistle capable of stunning/distracting people from long range.
- Bigger Is Better: The larger the focusing device, the more powerful psychic abilities become. Leonard tries wearing a bunch of rabbit ears, and nearly smashes a brick through a concrete wall.
- Cassandra Truth: Alan tells everyone in school he's from Mars. Half the students believe him, and half the students don't. Then the two halves start fighting and Alan gets suspended.
- Chekhov's Skill: the Nafsulian gesture of irrevocable surrender is removing your hat and rubbing your belly at the same time, which just happens to be one of the easiest things to mind-control someone into doing.
- Cool, but Inefficient: Being able to move things with your mind is pretty neat, but there's no real advantage to doing so instead of just walking up to it and moving it with your muscles the way you normally would.
- The Dragon: The Wozzle, in an invisible predator that harasses the people of Waka-Waka on behalf of the Nafsulians. Is actually Manny, Moe, and Jack after plane shifting.
- Mind over Matter: One of the psychic powers the boys obtain, but requires a Magic Wand.
- Narrating the Present: the book Alan and Leonard buy a book on Hypersteller Archeology which mentions them by name buying and reading the book. They don't know about this until they're well into reading it.
- Not the Intended Use: Using psychic powers to influence people's actions or move objects is described as being akin to discovering a car and believing that all it's good for is sitting in the front seat and listening to the radio.
- Uncoffee: Fleegix.
- You Were Trying Too Hard: the first time the protagonists activate the omega-wave meter.
: The protagonist and his many-times-great uncle Borgel go on an interdimensional tourist trip, and meet a godlike popsicle.Fat Men From Space
: Earth is invaded by aliens who look like fat men, and steal all the junk food on the planet.
The Last Guru
- iSophagus: The main character has a dental filling that acts as a radio receiver.
: Harold Blatz parlays a horse-racing bet into a stock market fortune, becomes the richest person in the world, goes to Tibet, and finds enlightenment.Lizard Music
: Victor's on his own after his parents go on vacation, leaving him with his mostly absent big sister. He's got a love of midnight bad sci-fi movie hour, but one night, instead of the usual mockable serials from the 50s, he sees a blurry shot of... lizards playing music. Joining up with a black hobo who has a hen on his hat, they set off to get to the source of the broadcasts: an invisible island populated by sentient lizards that's somewhere off the coast near Hogboro
The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death/The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror
- Black Best Friend: The narrator's newfound friend, and the other main character, is a black hobo.
- Cloudcuckooland: Lizard island, explained as a side-effect of the lizards being able to intercept TV signals.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The Chicken Man, and all of the lizards, in a strange sort of Zen-like way. It's even lampsahded, and the reason why The Chicken Man decides to stay behind.
- The Cloudcuckoolander Was Right: The Chicken Man is the only other character (besides the narrator) who knows about the Lizard Music program.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Chicken Man, due to the chicken he carries, an intelligent hen named Claudia.
- I Have Many Names: The Chicken Man has a few aliases, and asks Victor which he likes best. Victor responds, "Charlie Swan".
- Parental Abandonment: The narrator's parents are off to a resort. His older sister's supposed to watch him, but as teens are wont to do, she's busy doing whatever she's doing as well.
- Planet of Steves: The lizards all have the same name.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Discussed. The lizards on the island are completely mellow (thanks to television waves), but the narrator is wary of going to the island at first, because of this trope.
- Turtle Power: In the end, the narrator leaves the island via having his surfboard carried on a turtle back to Hogbro shore.
: Two teenage boys who sneak out in the middle of the night to watch old movies get recruited to help the world's finest detective defeat werewolves, international criminals, and alien real-estate agents.Slaves of Spiegel
: The fat men from Fat Men From Space
arrange for a literal Cooking Duel
between the three best junk-food chefs in the universe.The Worms of Kukumlima
Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario
- The Mad Hatter: Gordon Whillikers
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: The crater is full of jewels, but for a human slave living there there's nothing more precious than food that isn't crunchy granola.
: The Flying Dutchman is on a submarine in the middle of Lake Ontario, and needs help to break his curse.Young Adult Novel
: The Wild Dada
Ducks are a group of high school students who love spreading the message of Dada and writing short stories about Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan
. Once they find out there is an actual Kevin Shapiro in the school, they use their Dada skills to make him as successful as possible
- With editorial cartoonist Tony Auth, Pinkwater produced the brief but very memorable surreal humor strip Norb in the mid-80's. It was about an eccentric Gentleman Adventurer named Norb, his defrosted wooly mammoth Eugen, teenage neighbor girl Rat, and his "stooge,'' Jacobowitz. It was a little too weird for the general audience, and it only lasted exactly one year. An anthology book of the daily strips (but not the Sunday ones) was published, but old copies of it are hard to come by.