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Creator / Daniel Pinkwater

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One part Marx Brother, one part cracked social satirist... with a particle of werewolf thrown in. I am a sandwich!
— Pinkwater Podcast intro

Daniel Manus Pinkwater (born November 15, 1941) 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. He also used to call in to Car Talk to expound on a car-related topic with Click and Clack when that show was still making new episodes.

He currently offers free audio versions of many of his books on his website.

Pinkwater books with their own pages:

  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars: Two middle-school boys become psychically enlightened and travel to an alternate plane of existence.
  • Borgel: The protagonist and his many-times-great uncle Borgel go on an interdimensional tourist trip, and meet a godlike popsicle. This book got some unwanted publicity when a heavily rewritten passage ("The Hare and the Pineapple") was used as part of a standardized test on 8th grade reading comprehension and was frequently quoted in news articles about the controversial tests.
  • Lizard Music: An adolescent boy is left unattended at home after his parents and sister leave on trips. He eventually ventures to a floating island inhabited by lizards with the help of a hobo who keeps a hen in his hat.
  • The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death/The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror: 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.

Other Pinkwater books

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     The Education of Robert Nifkin 
Robert Nifkin starts high school at Riverview High in Chicago, which he finds intolerable. He drops out, and is able to attend Wheaton Academy, a private school full of freaks and weirdos like him. The book is semi-autobiographical and much more realistic and cynical than most Pinkwater books.
  • Beatnik: Robert spends a lot of time at a bookstore full of intellectuals and jazz fans who wear all black and seem to be part of the Beat movement. At one point some real Beatniks from New York show up, but Robert is intimidated by how hardcore they are.
  • Cool School: Wheaton Academy, which is in an old mansion. Most of the teachers are fun to hang out with and more interested in the students having a good time and learning on their own terms than in making them do schoolwork. The administration is fine with students spending half the day out of class, and a lot of the learning is done through the students following their own interests in whatever.
  • Cool Teacher: Sgt. Gunter, the ROTC instructor, is the only person at Riverview that Robert has any respect for, in part because he sticks it to the establishment by teaching his students about Marxism. At Wheaton, there's Mr. Dershiewitz, a Deadpan Snarker who teaches using the Socratic method, takes the kids out drinking, and is somewhat of a mentor to Robert, introducing him to Chess, the Beat movement, and his eventual college.
  • Darker and Edgier: Has many similar elements (the setting, a storyline focusing on exploring the city, a Sucky School with bigoted teachers) to the earlier Snarkout Boys books, but is less humorous and focuses far more on the negative school elements than those books. Of all of Pinkwater's books, this has the most adult content and is clearly aimed more at a teen audience than at kids.
  • Emo Teen: Natalia/Pamela is a 1950's Beatnik equivalent, who wears all black, and speaks only in dramatic Purple Prose about her suffering.
  • New Transfer Student: Robert arrives at Wheaton halfway through the school year, after being kicked out of Riverview for chronic absences.
  • Red Scare: Many of the teachers at Riverview are paranoid about communist infiltration, and eventually Robert's ROTC instructor Sgt. Gunter is dramatically removed for being a secret communist. Played with in that this paranoia is completely justified, but the communists are portrayed as the good guys. Sgt. Gunter reads Marx to his students in school, and is Robert's only role model at Riverview.
  • Roman à Clef: The events of the book are closely based on Pinkwater's own adolescence, and the book lacks the bizarre supernatural elements found in most of his other writings.
  • School of No Studying: Both schools, for different reasons. At Riverview, the schoolwork is so low-level and boring that Robert feels disinclined to do any work. The school works on the "notebook system" which involves copying things off the board, so there are never any tests or homework. At Wheaton, the school is one by design- the education is so liberal that the students are expected to design their own work, and most of them get educated by reading books and having fun exploring the city rather than doing schoolwork.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Robert is shown to be more intelligent than many people around him, and later on in high school devotes himself to mastering chess as his primary occupation (as opposed to schoolwork).
  • Skipping School: One day, Robert just doesn't get off the bus to go to school, and never comes back, instead spending his time exploring Chicago.
  • Sucky School: At Riverview, all the teachers are anti-Semitic, rabidly anti-communist, and incompetent, and all the students are brainless thugs. Robert loathes the school and quickly stops attending.

    Fat Men From Space 
Earth is invaded by aliens who look like fat men, and steal all the junk food on the planet.
  • iSophagus: The main character has a dental filling that acts as a radio receiver.

    The Last Guru 
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.
  • Bland-Name Product: McTavish's, the ubiquitous burger chain with a clown mascot, and Kroco-Cola, the ubiquitous soft drink with lots of red iconography and branding, are clear but bizarre parodies of McDonald's and Coca-cola. Their owner's name is an allusion to Ray Kroc, the onetime real-life owner of McDonald's. McTavish's is strange twist on it, as it sells only vegetarian pickleburgers and its mascot is a Buddhist Monk/clown named Hodi McBodi (an allusion to Ronald McDonald).
  • Blessed with Suck: Harold's stock market fortune is far more trouble than it's worth. All the attention from it forces his family to leave their town and go into hiding, and he has no idea what to do with the money.
  • Cyclic National Fascination: Following the example of Harold and Hodi McBodi, America becomes enveloped in a New Age religious craze, such that 99% of people abandon their previous faiths in favor of meditation, chanting, and gong-ringing. Eastern gurus become the most in-demand profession. This all ends after Harold, revered as a semi-divine figure by much of the populace, asks everyone to stop, and people return to their old faiths and practices as suddenly as they started.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: At one point, Harold mails a certificate to "every man, woman, and child in the civilized world and Iceland."

     Magic Moscow Trilogy 
A series of three books consisting of The Magic Moscow, Atilla the Pun and Slaves of Spiegel. The books chronicle the adventures of Norman Bleistif and his friend Steve Nicholson, who employs Norman at his hybrid junk food/health food restaurant called The Magic Moscow in Hoboken. In The Magic Moscow, Steve's becomes obsessed with a TV show about a crime-solving dog, and the TV plot gradually bleeds into their lives. In Attila the Pun, Norman and Steve make friends with a psychic and become entangled with ghosts. And in 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.
  • Alien Abduction: In Slaves of Spiegel, the Spiegelians (a race of aliens who look like fat men) kidnap Steve Nicholson as well as his entire restaurant in order to enter him in a cooking contest. The entire building simply disappears without a trace. Eventually they come back and capture Norman as well.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: When Lemont Penumbra of Attila the Pun goes out of the house, he usually wears a trenchcoat and fedora that nearly conceals his eyes. The whole effect gives him an incredibly sinister look that draws Norman's attention and causes Norman to fear him.
  • Glowing Eyes: Lemont Penumbra of Attila the Pun has glowing blue eyes that make him look sinister and otherworldly. It's part of his act to make people believe he has psychic powers, although how is never explained.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In Attila the Pun, their plan to summon a ghost ends up being successful, but the ghost they summon turns out to be so annoying that they quickly regret their actions and try to find a way to get rid of him.
  • Human Aliens: The Spiegelians in Slaves of Spiegel all look like fat men wearing leisure suits.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Attila "the Pun" emits a constant stream of extremely corny, pun-based jokes.
  • Identical Stranger: The three chefs, except for the minor part where they're from three different species that don't resemble each other at all. Besides that, totally identical.
  • Inept Mage: In Attila the Pun, Lemont Penumbra frequently tries to do magic, but most of his spells don't work.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: Slaves of Spiegel mostly switches between different first-person narratives, but occasionally it goes into third-person omniscient when there isn't a convenient first-person narrator. The first time this happens is in a short chapter called "An Unnamed Third Person Who Knows Everything That Happens In This Story Speaks".
  • Phony Psychic: In Attila the Pun, Lemont Penumbra makes his living as a psychic, but he admits he can't actually predict the future.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: In Slaves of Spiegel, the first prize involves being Lord Sargon's slave for all eternity, so the second prize, a lifetime supply of blue space garlic, is much more desirable.
  • Significant Anagram: The names of the three chefs in Slaves of Spiegel are all anagrams of each other.
  • Scrapbook Story: Slaves of Spiegel is told as a combination of bits from Steve Nicholson's journal, and narration from his young assistant.

    The Worms of Kukumlima 
A boy and his grandfather go on quest to find the sentient earthworms of the lost Kukumlima Crater, and find more than they bargained for.
  • Big Eater: Gordon Whillikers eats four helpings of everything at every meal, and is constantly eager for the next meal to start.
  • Bold Explorer: Gordon Whillikers is a professional explorer who searches the jungles of Africa for findings.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ali Tabu is cursed with incredible bad luck and constantly has amusing accidents.
  • Explorer Outfit: Most of the characters wear safari suits on their journey through Africa.
  • Jungle Opera: The book is about an adventure to Africa, where the characters encounter a number of otherworldy, perhaps extraterrestrial or supernatural things.
  • The Mad Hatter: Gordon Whillikers has many eccentricities and freely admits to being insane. According to him, the only thing that saved him from going crazy after his ordeal of being trapped in the crater was the fact that he was already crazy.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: The adventurers are given cryptic instructions to "look for the Elephant Gate". They eventually find it in the form of a rock arch shaped like a giant elephant, which is the only entrance into the Kukumlima Crater.
  • Multiethnic Name: Grandpa's friend Milton X. Mohammadstein, which combines Jewish/German and Muslim/Arabic roots in a single surname.
  • Starfish Aliens: The titular Worms of Kukumlima, giant earthworms that supposedly arrive periodically from space to harvest elephant mouse hair. Subverted, as the worms turn out not to be aliens at all, but permanent residents of the crater.
  • 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.

    Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario 
A kid goes to search for a sea monster in Lake Ontario, and instead finds The Flying Dutchman on a submarine who needs help to break his curse.
  • Flying Dutchman: Captain Van Straten has been cursed to sail the seas forever, and can't bring his ship more than a certain number of miles from shore.
  • If It Swims, It Flies: This book's version of the Flying Dutchman cannot bring any ship of his, including the pig-shaped submarine he currently lives on, within a certain distance of the shore.note  The protagonist figures out that if they get the sub to hydroplane fast enough to fly it won't be a ship, it'll be an airplane, which doesn't fall under the rules of the curse.
  • Not the Nessie: Yobgorgle is a cryptid that lives in a lake, and people say isn't real, but has a following of people hunt for it. Ambrose Mc Fwain sells Yobgorgle dolls that look much like Nessie supposedly does, as some sort of pleisiosaur.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The titular submarine is an experimental Nazi U-Boat from World War Two. Disguised as a simple barnyard pig out for a swim...a giant pig the size of, well, a Nazi U-boat.

    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. There is also a sequel, Dead End Dada, in which the Wild Dada Ducks abandon Dada in favor of Zen.
  • Blatant Lies: The school counselor in the second book insists that everything that goes on in the session is confidential, but it actually clearly audible to anyone standing outside, and the counselor actually reports everything that goes down to both the students' parents and principal. She also tells the boys that masturbation is perfectly normal and healthy, but then tells their parents and principal that they are huge perverts and should be heavily punished for the same.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The real Kevin Shapiro doesn't take kindly to the Ducks messing with his life, and so gets everyone in the school to throw soggy cereal at them at the same time.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Common in the Book Within A Book Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan. Poor Kevin is comically overloaded with tragedy: he's a gay, drug-addicted orphan who's in and out of jail and whose sister is a prostitute. The exact details change from iteration to iteration, but they always involve an implausible amount of tragedy, and each story ends with Kevin's tragic death.
  • Dork Horse Candidate: Kevin Shapiro, a nerdy schlub who is unanimously elected Student Council President in a write-in campaign.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a Young Adult Novel.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Ducks make Kevin extremely popular. He proceeds to form a cult of personality and suddenly commands every student except for the Ducks.
  • Gratuitous French: One of the Duck's earlier escapades involves printing and distributing "Horace Gerstenblut does not exist" cards, but in French, in order to seem more artsy and impressive. It works, as many students are intrigued by the cryptic message and there's a spike in interest in the French language.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Balcon Falcon Drug Company, a malt shop with terrible food and cranky staff which the Ducks nevertheless use as their primary meeting place because it's cheap and quiet.
  • Kavorka Man: In the second book, despite being short, poorly dressed, and nerdy, Kevin Shapiro has the three hottest and most popular girls crawling all over him.
  • Lost Aesop: In the end, the Ducks conclude that there is no moral to the events they've experienced, as, "it is a Dada story."
  • Magical Asian: Parodied. In the second book, the Ducks search for a Zen master and decide that Mr. Yi, the owner of a local laundromat, must be a Zen master chock-full of wisdom because he's Asian. Of course, Mr. Yi has no special insights or powers, and is creeped out by the devotion the Ducks show to him.
  • Misery Lit: Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan is a parody of those harrowing young adult books about troubled teens. Kevin is gay, addicted to drugs, in and out of jail, and frequently tragically killed in addition to being an orphan.
  • The Napoleon: Kevin Shapiro is very short and scrawny, and is an anti-social Jerkass who becomes a dictator of the school once given power.
  • Never Say That Again: The Ducks have fines for certain words.
  • Nominated as a Prank: The Wild Dada Ducks create a propaganda campaign for Kevin Shapiro's write-in candidacy for student council president. The campaign is full of silly, hyperbolic claims about the nerdy and unpopular Kevin Shapiro, and is enacted as an absurdist art piece and in-joke (he just happens to have the same name as a fictional character the Ducks created). However, things go horribly right when Kevin Shapiro is unanimously elected, and proceeds to rule the school with an iron fist.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Ducks renounced their "slave names" in favor of these monikers: The Honorable Venustiano Carranza, President of Mexico (also known as "El Presidente"), Charles the Cat (the narrator), Igor, Captain Colossal, and The Indiana Zephyr.
  • Praetorian Guard: Kevin Shapiro establishes what is referred to as his Praetorian Guard, a small group of students who are closer to him than most and enforce his iron will up on the school. The group consists of everyone in the school shorter than him, and they all wear sailor hats.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Installments of "Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan" are said to frequently end with Kevin's unceremonious death. Charles the Cat explains: "Kevin is indestructible. You can kill him as often as you like. He can be brought back to life in the next chapter, which usually gets told the following day during lunch."
  • Troubled Teen: Parodied. The Book Within a Book Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan loads on as many cliches as possible to its troubled teen protagonist Kevin, who, depending on the story, is a drug-addicted, alcoholic juvenile delinquent with no parents and an older sister who is in jail for prostitution. He frequently dies horribly but always gets brought back.

Other Pinkwater Works:

Newspaper Comics

  • With editorial cartoonist Tony Auth, Pinkwater produced the brief but very memorable surreal humor strip Norb from 1989 to 1990. 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.

Pinkwater Podcast

The Pinkwater Podcast, which ran from 2008 to 2017, serializes Pinkwater's audiobooks interwoven with music and other interludes. The podcast is hosted by Pinkwater's webmaster and aspiring doctor Webmaster Ed, with Pinkwater himself appearing frequently in cameos, usually playing a character or otherwise in disguise. The podcast often showcases obscure or out-of-print Pinkwater works.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: One of the "Bugsy Scwartz, MD-to-Be" cases involving the attempted poisoning of a halva heiress has the victim's beloved truffle pig as a co-conspirator.
  • Genre Roulette: The podcast samples an extremely diverse spectrum of music genres, including classical music, Hip-Hop, world music, Jazz, early 20th century dancehall music, a variety of rock/pop sounds, and a few instances of what can only be described as Outsider Music. Usually the song is somehow related to events in the story being serialized.
  • Have We Met?: Many episodes have vignettes in which Webmaster Ed goes on a mundane excursion, only to encounter a mysterious, Trickster Mentor character voiced by Daniel Pinkwater who Ed finds very familiar...
  • Noir Episode: "Bugsy Scwartz, MD-to-Be", a series of vignettes about a crime-solving medical student amidst a largely un-noirish podcast. The vignettes feature abundant Private Eye Monologues and use of Chandler American Time-era slang in a general pastiche of the genre, though the actual cases tend to be quite silly.
  • Previously on…: Each episode's book chapter is usually preceded by a short clip of the last thing that happened in the last episode, along with "Last time on the Pinkwater Podcast"
  • Private Eye Monologue: Lampshaded. Bugsy Schwartz tends to go into monologues where he talks to himself in a 1940's-style accent about the case, as a smooth jazz beat plays in the background. Several of his co-workers notice this, and are weirded out about how he's always talking to himself, and playing jazz music as he does so.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The podcast's music is entirely sourced from music available for free on the internet, so it heavily samples the classical and folk genres. The music in other generes comes from extremely obscure artists.
  • Variety Show: The format of the show, inspired by old-time radio. The podcast combines episodes of Pinkwater books with music and a variety of content including vintage radio serials, joke-contests, and short Audio Play-style skits.