David Wisniewski does not draw with a pen or pencil-he “draws” using Exacto blades to make puppet silhouettes from paper. To create the puppet silhouettes for his first book, The Warrior and the Wise Man, Wisniewski used eight hundred Exacto blades. He wrote the Exacto company and explained this. It sent him eight hundred free blades. He never discovered if it would send him more free blades when his second book took one thousand blades because he forgot to ask. The son of an air force officer, Wisniewski attended the University of Maryland as a Theater and art student. While there, he heard about the famous Ringling Brothers and the Barnum and Baily Circus Clown College. Intrigued, Wisniewski decided to spend two years working for the circus, learning what interested and amused audiences. When he grew tired of constantly traveling, he applied for a position in a puppet theater group. Donna Harris interviewed him for the job and a lasting relationship was born. They were married six months later. Under her guidance, Wisniewski learned about costumes, sets, and, most important, shadow puppetry. In 1984, they formed their own puppet company, performing in the Smithsonian Institution's Discovery Theater and the Kennedy Center. That same year, they won a grant from the Henson Foundation, which gave them the money to create new and inventive puppet shows. By 1989, further awards and grants had made their five years in puppetry exciting and hectic though not at all conducive to raising their family. Wisniewski began working on some ideas for a children's book using his combined knowledge of drama, compelling stories, and an original art form stemming from his experience cutting out shadow puppets. His intricate and sharp edged paper forms gain an added dimension when photographed. His original folk tales are set in ancient cultures but have modern messages that inspire his readers. In 1997, Wisniewski won the Caldecott for Golem, the retelling of the Jewish legend of a clay creature that can be brought to life and controlled by a righteous man. In the story, a rabbi uses the Golem to protect a Jewish neighborhood from destruction. Wisniewski claims that winning the Caldecott was wonderful. After Golem, Wisniewski changed direction and turned to comedy, a big part of his life as a clown and puppeteer. His book The Secret Knowledge of Grownups reveals a zany humor that gains an added depth through his silhouettes, which depict things such as ravenous vegetables trying to take over the world, an atomic cow, and famous people whose faces are sucked in from blowing bubbles in their milk. Wisniewski continues to focus on new challenges as he uses his experiences as a clown, puppeteer, paper cutter, and storyteller to create new and dramatic stories for children of all ages to enjoy.
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