Jack Prelutsky is an American writer of children's poetry. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Carolynn.
Jack Prelutsky was born on September 8, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York to Charles, an electrician, and Dorothea, a homemaker. While he was still a baby, a fire burned his family's apartment and he was saved by his Uncle Charlie, who was a stand up comic who played the Borscht Belt. He was poor growing up, and he said he was "...a sensitive kid in a working class neighborhood. I got beat up a lot. I was a skinny kid with a big mouth. A bad combination."
He attended local public schools in the Bronx, hated the experience, and was bored in class. Prelutsky claims to have hated poetry when he was younger. He stated that "sometime in elementary school I had a teacher who, in retrospect, did not like poetry herself. She was determined to inflict her views on her captives. The syllabus told her she had to recite a poem once a week. She would pick a boring poem from a boring book and read it in a boring voice, looking bored while she was doing it."
After teachers discovered he had musical talents, they suggest he attend The High School of Music & Art. While there, he was happy and was able to train his beautiful singing voice and even took part in the musicals. He graduated in 1958, and went on to Hunter College for two years. He studied philosophy, psychology, and flunked English three times before dropping out.
Before becoming a writer, he worked odd jobs including driving a cab, moving furniture, busboy, potter, woodworker, and door-to-door salesman. In the late 1960's, he was working in a bookstore in Greenwich Village and singing in coffeehouses, and while doing the latter he met Bob Dylan, became friends, and Dylan even stated that Prelutsky sounded "like a cross between Woody Guthrie and Enrico Caruso".
Prelutsky also loved to draw imaginary animals, and a friend of his encouraged him to send it to a publisher in New York. He wrote poems to go with the drawings last minute. He met with Susan Hirshman, and was amazed when they wanted his work; not the drawings that took six months to draw, but the poems which took two hours. He was 24 at the time, and the poems appeared in his first book, A Gopher in the Garden and Other Animal Poems. Hirshman told him he was a natural poet, published his book, and remained his editor until she retired 37 years later.
Prelutsky has written more than 50 poetry collections, including Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep (1976), It's Halloween (1977), The Mean Old Mean Hyena (1978), and Something BIG Has Been Here (1990). Nilsen, A. P. and Nilsen, D.L.F. (2000). Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Humor. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press. He has also compiled numerous children's anthologies comprising poems of others.
He has also set his poems to music on the audio versions of his anthologies. He often sings and plays guitar on most of them.
In 2006, the Poetry Foundation named Prelutsky the inaugural winner of the Children’s Poet Laureate award.
He appeared on the popular animated television series Arthur, in the episode "I'm a Poet."
His book Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and Other Poems (illustrated by Carin Berger) won the 2007 Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award of the Washington State Book Awards in the Picture Book category.
In 1993, "The New Kid on the Block" was made into an interactive story book by Brøderbund's Living Books series.
Prelutsky married his wife Carolynn in 1979. They met when he was on a book tour in Albuquerque, New Mexico and she was a children's librarian who was tasked with showing him around town. He claims it was love at first sight and even asked for her hand in marriage the first day he met her. They have lived in Arizona, Boston, New York, and Olympia, Washington. They currently live in downtown Seattle and have an apartment on Bainbridge Island.