Biography | Literary Awards and Honors | Film Awards and Honors
I have a snapshot of myself at age four. I was holding brushes and standing in front of an easel, a freshly painted vase of flowers displayed there.
It seems my parents wanted an artist. I never thought I'd be anything else. I never dreamed I'd be an author. Writing stories and creating characters that spoke and had lives that seemed real was, to me, an amazing and mysterious ability.
I wanted to be a painter. When I finished art school I moved from Los Angeles, where I was born, to New York City, which I thought was the world capital of the arts. I loved New York. My paintings became multicolored plastic sculptures. To support my family, I designed and directed animated television commercials. I had always loved cartoons, especially Bugs Bunny, and I found I enjoyed making animated films. Even a thirty second commercial involved drawing and painting, as well as storytelling, not to mention actors, music and sound effects. In the mid 1960's I made some films of my own.
Meeting Elizabeth Levy in 1970 changed everything. She was a young writer who had written a mystery for children, and she invited me to illustrate it. The story was called, Something Queer is Going On. It became a series of books, and more than thirty years later, we are still doing them.
From the first, I loved the picture book medium. It was film and drawing and theater all in one. Encouraged by Liz Levy and a couple of editors, I began trying to write my own stories. I found that, for me, writing was a bit like gardening. I learned to plant ideas in my mind like seeds, and when they sprouted (if they sprouted), to cultivate them, nurture them, and help them grow. I never know what kind of fruit, vegetable, or flower a story will turn out to be. Sunflower or turnip? After writing on various projects for over ten years my first book turned out to be a duck.
Arnold of the Ducks was turned down by seven publishers until I finally got it to the right one, and I became an author.
I love making books. Each one seems to be, in some way, essentially different from the others, and each is a surprise to me. I think that making books, or any kind of art, might also be like mining. The artist digs into his or her life and imagination and never knows what they'll find. That's the adventure.
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Along with writing and illustrating books for children, Mordicai Gerstein is a painter, sculptor, and prize-winning designer and director of animated films.
Born in Los Angeles, Gerstein attended the Chouinard Institute of Art before moving to New York City where he lived and worked for twenty-five years making animated films for television.
In 1971, Mordicai collaborated with author Elizabeth Levy to create the 'Something Queer is Going On' series of mystery books for Delacorte Press.
Gerstein began writing and illustrating his own books in 1980.
His books are wide-ranging in subject, style, and the age groups addressed, from contemporary fantasy and Biblical retellings, to biography and absurd alphabets, for preschoolers, high schoolers, and even adults.
Mordicai Gerstein lives in western Massachusetts with his wife, Susan Yard Harris, who is also an illustrator, and their daughter, Risa.
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AJLA SidneyTaylor Award – 2005
The Man Who Walked Between The Towers
Caldecott Award winner - 2004
Boston Glove – Hornbook Award winner – 2004
The Wild Boy
The New York Times: one of the ten best illustrated books of the year.
ALA notable Children's Book
School Library Journal, Hornbook and Booklist: one of the year's best.
Parents' Choice: Recommended Book for 1998.
The New York Times: one of the year's ten best books for children.
The Mountains of Tibet
The New York Times: one of the ten best illustrated books of the year, as well as one of the ten best for children.
The Beast in You
Annecy International Animated Film Festival: First Prize for Television Commercials
The Magic Ring
CINE: Golden Eagle
International Festival for Experimental Film, Belgium: Award of the Film Clubs of France