Paul O. Zelinsky was born in Evanston, Illinois. He attended Yale University, where he took a course with Maurice Sendak, which later inspired him to pursue a career in children's books. He went on to receive a graduate degree in painting from Tyler School of Art, in Philadelphia and Rome. His first book was published in 1978. Among many other awards and prizes, he received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel, as well as Caldecott Honors for three of his books: Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995). Paul Zelinsky lives in New York with his wife, Deborah.