Talk to DP Forum

Sean Jordan

What will we do without Papaya King? (And what else shouldn’t we miss out on?)

December 30, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I grew up a devoted fans of your books (particularly Borgel, Fat Men From Space and The Snarkout Boys), and I have of course read many of them to my own children. They were amazed when they learned The Chicken Man from Lizard Music and some of your other books was based on a real person, and they were also so impressed with Molly’s glowing description of Papaya King in Adventures of a Dwergish Girl that we simply had to stop there on our Christmas vacation to New York City. 

(Here’s a picture of them posing outside today with their cousin!)

We all enjoyed the food and revitalizing-as-advertised papaya juice, which my wife said did a great job of chasing away her headache. But part of the reason we made sure we made this stop on our trip was because we learned that Papaya King is soon going to be forcibly closed so the property owner can demolish the lot and construct another corner high-rise. 

Our family will probably return to New York one day, but we’ll be sad to see this wonderful place gone. The world will surely be a worse place for its disappearance, and while there are other papaya and hot dog stands in New York, we know with the King out of business, they are also likely destined to vanish one day.  Short of finding a dwerg to buy us a secret patented juicing machine of our own, our days of pairing papaya juice and hot dogs are certain to be numbered.

So our question for you is this: what other places or restaurants have you visited that you would say are essential to go before they’re gone forever? We trust your palate and your advice. 

Thank you! (And our condolences for the passing of your dear wife Jill, whose absence in this time and place you described eloquently and hopefully.)

-The Jordan Family – Sean, Stacie, Harper and Benny

P.S. – Independent of your fans Amy and Tilda Jordan – no relation! – my own children made the passionate case that Osgood Siergerson is really Walter Galt’s father and now have me convinced. I never caught it as a young reader, but I’m fascinated by it today, being exactly the sort of father myself who’s likely to put on pancake makeup and a putty nose and help his children and their friends solve crazy crimes overnight while sampling tasty delights at diners.

Daniel replies:

I am desolate to learn that Papaya King will be no more. Is it just the original location, I wonder. I know there are or were a few more. Although I live only 90 miles away from NYC, I am old now, and making my way down and back is a big deal. I always plan to blow $400 on a limo ride, just for some papaya juice, but there's never an occasion, and now the store will be gone. Vandalism. End of civilization.

Ross Asselstine

Substitute Teacher

December 20, 2022

Mr Pinkwater, 

I heard you read a short story about being a substitute teacher for a children’s art class. It was about the wonder of watching children paint whatever they want and your joy of just enabling the discovery of expression in the young kids.

In what book would I find that story?

Thank you and a happy holidays to you!

Daniel replies:

It may be in Fish Whistle, a collection of short pieces, out of print, but copies are around.

Erin & Aidan Tyree

Does Mr. Plumbean Alligator Bite? (And other important questions.)

November 27, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater-

One of the great joys of my son, Aidan, entering toddlerhood is that I can share with him my favorite books from MY childhood. Tonight we were reading The Big Orange Splot, and he asked if the alligator bites. Here was our conversation:

Me: I don’t know

Aidan: Ask.

Me: …

A: Ask.

Me: Ask who?

A: Ask Mr. Plumbean.

Me: Well, I can’t ask Mr. Plumbean because he’s pretend. But I guess I can ask Mr. Pinkwater. He’s real.

A: Ask Mr. Pink Wawa.

(…Then toward the end of the book, he asked if the neighbor’s house that was converted into a castle had SUVs driving inside. I don’t think SUVs existed when the book was first published, and the dimensions only looked large enough for a garage, but I had to concede I didn’t know for sure.)

Aidan: Ask Mr. Pink Wawa.

So. On behalf of Aidan, age 2.5, I’m writing to ask you:
(1) Does Mr. Plumbean’s pet alligator bit?
(2) Does the castle have SUVs driving inside? COULD it have SUVs driving inside today?

Erin Tyree

PS- About a year ago,  I wanted to spice up our bedtime stories so I brought out Guys From Space (probably my all-time favorite picture book), even though he didn’t even know what root beer was, let alone aliens. He did, however, know about cats, throw-up, and computer printers.
It took us twenty minutes to get past the dedication page.
…And then he wondered what happened to the cat. So we had to tell him the alien that drank root beer from his feet was a space kitty.

Daniel replies:

1. Of course the alligator bites, that is to say it can bite, it is capable of biting, but you have to ask why would the alligator bite? It seems to be a pet alligator, and happy to hang around with Mr. Plumbean. I think we can assume that Mr. Plumbean feeds the alligator, that is an important thing we do for our pets. Now I don't know exactly what Mr. Plumbean would feed his alligator, because that is not part of the story. However, by good luck I am the author of the story, so we can ask me what I would have shown Mr Plumbean feeding his alligator, if I had thought of it...and the answer is...frozen pizza, the kind you buy in the market, and heat up in the oven. So, the alligator gets all the pizza it can hold, and we can assume it will not bite anyone because it  is hungry. The other reason I can think of for an alligator to bite would be if it were angry about something. This alligator has a nice garden to live in, a nice Mr. Plumbean to keep it company, and all that pizza. I don't think it is likely to be angry. So the answer is, yes it could bite, if it had a reason.
2. Many castles, including very old ones built before there were SUVs, or any kind of transportation that went by its initials, have plenty of room for SUVs, trucks, buses, airplanes, and whales. Castles are big.

Pinkas May


November 20, 2022

Sir, please accept my  sincere condolences for your loss. I was looking at one of the books she illustrated today and felt compelled to look at your website. That’s how I found out. I have been married for half the time you were and can only imagine. I would hug you if I could. 

Daniel replies:

I wish to point out that I feel pleased that I got to be married to Jill, and for such a long time, and I am more than pleased, I am tickled, that she went, (quickly), before me, and I don't need to ever worry again that I might die first and leave her alone and me unable to help and take care of her. It's a big deal to be loved as I was for so many years, and you can't be very sad if something like that happens to you

Emmett Brown

What devilry is this?

September 13, 2022

 Thank you in advance for viewing my query. This will unundoubtedly seem as unhinged to you in the retelling as it was to me in the reality. But for the last 3 weeks I have been receiving a transmission on my television set that seems to only come in between one thirty and three in the morning, halfway through my shift as a night watchman. A strange high pitch static interruption is followed by a grainy black and white broadcast of a group of what appear to be juvenile lizards begin playing a stylized rockabilly concert in a tv studio located inside of a pyramid. In between the songs the lead singer, who his bandmates call Reynold, will often address the audience directly and say things like ‘we’re waiting for you’ and ‘we have all the borglenuskies you need Mr Pinkwater’. Which brought me here. The situation is ongoing, but suffice to say once I rent a boat and triangulate the source of the transmission we should have more answers. But for now, have you tried Mochi before? just in case no, its delicious. 

Daniel replies:

I'm surprised if this is an over-the-air transmission. Most people pick up those performances on their phones. Word to the wise, ignore those ads for fleegix and other products, they're not authentic.



August 19, 2022

Mr. Pinkwater, your book “alan mendelsohn boy from mars” went a long way to pulling me out of the quagmire of feeling I was the only awkward boy in the world.  I now teach at a school for gifted (and nerdy and awkward and awesome) students.

Thank you!

Eugene Katsman

Daniel replies:

I know the secret none of us know when knowing it would do us the most good. All schools are schools for gifted and nerdy and awkward and mostly awesome students. I only found this out when I started writing books for children and young people. Some kid would send me a letter about how Alan Mendelsohn the Boy from Mars made him feel better about being such a weird outsider, and he'd include a photo of himself, his handsome, often blond-haired, confident-looking self, in his football jersey, of which team he was the captain. Kids who are not insecure, and are sure there is nothing wrong with them, are comparatively rare, which is a good thing because some of them become dangerous later in life.



August 11, 2022

As I remember it, our third grade teacher would assign a book to everyone to read and we’d talk about it in class. Now I liked this teacher because she was the first person in my life who explained to me that I was shy and that I didn’t have to be, so one day I bravely asked her if I could recommend a book for us to read. She said that if I lent her a copy, she’d definitely read it over to see if she thought it’d be the right kind of book for class.

That book was Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. I’m not sure that, as a third grader, I could’ve explained why I liked it so much, except that it felt like a good way to live life: having weird adventures and caring a lot about the right things, like good friends and good snacks.

Well, she read it over. She said she appreciated how much I enjoyed it, but that it wasn’t the right sort of book to read as a class. “For example, there’s the part where underage kids have a great time smoking cigars,” she said. “I think the parents would riot.”

I was astonished. In my view, reading about kids smoking (a few cigars! to try it out! for fun!) was obviously about as harmless as it gets. In my astonishment, I got a sudden intuition. I felt very strongly that my teacher turning down the book was directly connected to the sort of vapid adult hysteria those cigars were about: didn’t Leonard and Alan smoke cigars partly because it can be good and instructive to break rules like that? Because adults tend to be very excitable and frivolous and hopelessly boring, which gets in the way of kids growing up properly? Adults tend to do things like turning down interesting books because of fictional cigars (Ceci n’est pas une pipe!) and making you ask to use the bathroom. A good lesson for life, and the book had already said so!  My teacher shocked me into noticing that. I learned that you might like a book because it has a Way of Looking at Things that shows you some potentially important and true ideas for your day to day life.

Even the best schools are a little like Bat Masterson. On the other hand, even the most mundane adventures with friends are a little like sneaking off to an alternate universe and saving the day. I was glad to have that pointed out early on. It’s been around twenty-five years since then and I am still Looking at Things, reading joyful transgressive books, and doing my best to live life in that good way.

Daniel replies:

I think you said it all. I didn't have any lofty ideas vis-a-vis cigars and freedom, I just wrote what seemed to fit. If I'd had the characters smoke cigarettes, that would have been different.

Fellow Up-stater

A pleasant surprise

July 20, 2022

As an avid car talk listener, when a man named Daniel Pinkwater called in – I would immediately turn the volume up. If not to hear a hilarious car related issue – perhaps to learn a new vocabulary word. After a book recommendation via YouTube became a house favorite (the big orange splot) – imagine my surprise to find that it was the very funny fellow up-state New Yorker and Car talk celebrity that is also the writer of a story with a very important lesson. Just wanted to say thank you from Albany.

Daniel replies:

I live in the mid-Hudson Valley, which is not generally regarded as upstate New York. I think there may be some debate as to whether Albany is upstate. I like Albany, and used to think of moving there someday, which would have been going in an upstate direction if not to a place actually so designated. I miss Click and Clack. They used to pay me for those appearances in cheap cigars, often stale along with cheap, but they were fun to work with.


An earnest Thank You

July 14, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,
I recently began a new job as a public library technician, where, shock of all shocks, I deal with a lot of books.
The children’s summer reading program is now in full swing, and I noticed recently the name Daniel Pinkwater coming up quite a lot in our holds. I swore I’d heard the name before, but it was eluding me…

Then it hit me- one of the first books I remembered reading in my elementary school library was The Hoboken Chicken Emergency!

Looking into your bibliography, I realized how much of an impact your work has made on my life, from my awakening as a bookworm to one of my mom’s less favorite years teaching 8th grade English (no hard feelings).

I’m currently working toward a degree in library science, and it feels as if you, like all the authors I loved as a kid, have been part of this journey with me, in a way. So I’d just like to send my thanks and well regards.

Have a good summer!


Daniel replies:

Had it not been for librarians, library science majors, library assistants who ordered books of mine, recommended them, reviewed them, sometimes honored them, matched my books with the likely needs and tastes of specific library clients, I would have had no career, no reputation, and no income. I didn't become a writer in order to have a career, and the career I've had is not  as big as that of some commercial writers, but I didn't want to be a writer like that. I am very proud of my readers, people for whom the things I write have a special meaning, and for the most part those people were exposed to my work guessed it, librarians!'re thanking ME?

Kent Peterson

Crazy in Poughkeepsie

June 18, 2022

Of course I bought Crazy in Poughkeepsie as soon as it came out and it’s a super fun book, but this isn’t about that. It’s about how whenever I’m in a bookstore, I go to the “P” section and look for books by Pinkwater and if I find one cheap (used or whatever) I buy it even if I already have it, so I can put it in a Little Free Library or pass it on to some smart looking kid.

A couple of days ago, I was in Zenith books in Duluth, Minnesota and found TAILS OF THE BRONX by Jill Pinkwater. It passed my random read test and I figured if she lives with Daniel she must be a good egg, so I bought it and am reading it now.

Jeepers, it’s a terrific book. Not like Daniel’s stuff but kinda like Daniel’s stuff. Anyhow, I’m just writing this to say that now I’m a fan of two Pinkwaters, both of whom write books that are great for folks of darn near all ages (and I say this as a 63 year old human who is not a spambot).

Daniel replies:

I think Jill is much the better writer than myself. Humans and spambots agree.



June 9, 2022

Years Back – listening to NPR – I heard a broadcast by D.P. In it he said something to the effect of …

This is it – I am going to give you the secret. You get a space where you can work and not be disturbed. You go there for an hour each day to work on your project. The deal is that you work on the project for the set time – or do nothing at all – nothing else, for the given time period.

I have practiced (my own version of) this and I find it Very helpful and a great practice.

I have also tried to find it online and listen again and even share it – but I cannot find it!

Can you tell me where to find this cool creativity boost or am I just imagining all of this? Can you tell me where to listen to or read what you have to say about the creative process or whatever you call it?

thanks – especially if you help! (ps – so how do I prove that I am not a ‘spambot’ or that if I am that I am a spambot interested in creative thinking?


Daniel replies:

I don't call it the creative process. I don't call it anything at all. Also, unless the NPR commentary to which you refer is in FISHWHISTLE, or CHICAGO DAYS HOBOKEN NIGHTS, or HOBOKEN FISH AND CHICAGO WHISTLE, which is a bindup of the two collections, then I have no idea where you might find it, but you seem to remember the idea quite well.

Leopold Trout

a letter from a fan

May 28, 2022

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I’ve been a big fan of your work as long as I could read (Alan Mendelsohn is one of my favorites, and I am currently looking to purchase a brass moon potato of my own), and I felt it was right to send you a message of thanks for writing the books that influenced my sense of humor so much. I believe the first book of yours that I ever read was Blue Moose, originally introduced to me by my mother at the age of seven, with Fat Men from Space, the Magic Moscow trilogy, and the rest of her collection quickly following. Now, after aging another nine years, I’m as big a fan as ever, but I am still left with this question: where exactly was Borgel’s Old Country?

Greatest regards,

Leopold Trout

Daniel replies:

It was originally a province of the Even Older Country, and borders on the Fairly New Country. Don't they teach geography in school any more?

Andy Papier

Best books for Pre-K

May 28, 2022

Hello Mr. Pinkwater,


My name is Andy and I live in Chicago. Just recently I joined the Chicago Reads Book Buddy program that connects people like me with particular schools and their students. I was partnered with Smyth Elementary School and immediately thought of your books, which had a huge impact on my childhood. I was hoping to get your recommendations for Pre-K students? I most likely will buy a few 🙂


I am sure these kids will love them.





Daniel replies:

There's a whole bunch of polar bear books, from two different publishers I recall, YOUNG LARRY, AT THE HOTEL LARRY, ICE CREAM LARRY, BONGO LARRY, and IRVING AND MUKTUK TWO BAD BEARS, BAD BEARS IN THE BIG CITY, BAD BEARS AND A BUNNY, plus more. Great illustrations by Jill Pinkwater. I don't know what's in print, or available on Ebay, but look around. And thanks for asking.

Douglas Dove

Timeline in Neddiad series?

May 21, 2022

So as a soon to be 56 year old childless man with a penchant for juvenile fiction, I regret to say I found myself reading my first Daniel Pinkwater book last year after being diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. My wife knew that books are the best medicine in most instances, and stocked me up with a supply from used book stores and thrift shops. One of those was “Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl”. Me being a cat person I gravitated to it first (as far as dogs, nothing better than a Tri Color Rough Collie, it’s the snout, love Peach!) From my first reading and rereading, I was so taken with Big Audrey and Molly. And once I found Audrey’s story started in a previous book it led me to order “The Neddiad” and “The Yggyssey”. After that a whole new world opened up! So my question is, should I be so fixated with a cogent timeline? I figure “The Neddiad” is set circa 1949 and “The Yggyssey” and “Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl” in the early 50’s. I do so like you mixing real world places into your stories and having a ball looking them up. Well just the other week I finished “Adventures of a Dwergish Girl”, which seems to take place before she ever met Big Audrey and is set in a fairly contemporary Kingston and NYC (or am I mistaken?). And now I have on back order “Crazy in Poughkeepsie” and reading the blub online makes me think Molly is a character that might end up eventually in the “looney bin”. So in a series based in the assumption of a multitude of alternate universes, should I be surprised of books being written in a chronological disorder? I am finding it to be a hoot and challenging at the same time. I was just wondering if you, as the creator, think the same and I would appreciate any feedback. By the way, after two major surgeries and just finishing up lengthy chemotherapy last week, I hope to be reading “Crazy in Poughkeepsie” cancer free! Thanks for the wonderful diversion during it all. All the best, Doug.

Daniel replies:

Chronological disorder is an apt term. I suppose one could imagine Molly and other characters who seem to migrate among books as actors, contract players, who have roles in various productions. I'm happy mixing up time periods, introducing real and less read cultural items, and of course I have very little use for things like plot. As regards reality, I cannot think of a more satisfactory use for books of mine than providing diversion while heroically beating cancer. Bravo, Douglas! I am proud to have you read my stuff.

Lynne Roberts

Woogie Norple

April 26, 2022

Please reprint Woogie Norple – the current prices put this wonderful book out of the reach of most people.

Daniel replies:

Getting things reprinted is not something an author can just do...or do at all. The high prices for used copies must be because of illustrations by the great Tomie DePaola. Are there no color Xerox machines where you live? I won't say anything. If you have an ethical problem making a Xerox of a copyrighted work, tell yourself the author said it was ok, and buy some suitable book to donate to your local library.

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