It Happened in Pinsk

It Happened in Pinsk was written by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Richard Egielski – both New Yorkers and both celebrated for their contributions to children’s literature.   This hilarious children’s book came out in 1983 and is just as kooky and unique as ever.

It Happened in Pinsk is the story of Irv Irving, a man who loses his head; literally.

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Irv has a lovely wife – Irma, a comfortable apartment, good food, and even a telephone. But Irv still isn’t happy. Always complaining about how well off his widowed neighbour or celebrities like Kaminski the wrestler are, Irv overlooks his own good fortune and simply kvetches.

One morning, March 19, at breakfast, Irv was just about to eat a roll when he realized his head was missing.

“Oh, Irv!” his wife cried. “Everyday you lose something. Your keys. Your glasses. Now this.”

Irv, confused, waved his arms.

Irma quickly fashions Irv a new head with an old pillowcase and sends him off to work. Of course, Irv is upset and instead of heading for work he dashes off through the city to find his missing head. But Irv’s pillowcase of a head quickly attracts a lot of attention – although not the kind of attention one would suspect.

First, a policeman mistakes Irv for Igor Kalinski, a notorious criminal and tries to arrest him. Irv breaks free but is soon swept up into the arms of a woman who insists on addressing Irv as Uncle Eugene.

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After a series of mistaken identities Irv finally encounters what he’s been looking for.

There, in the window of HATS BY PETROV, under a homburg, was Irv’s head.

“I’ll take that,” Irv said, pointing to his head.

“I don’t think that’s your size, sir” Petrov pronounced.

“Not the hat. That! That’s my head!”

After Irv finally makes it home with his head intact he almost never complains ever again.

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This story is completely weird  and totally engrossing. Irv, the literally faceless man, mirrors the face the people around him desire to see while reflecting and refracting Irv’s own initial emptiness. An eerie subtext and beautiful illustrations make this picture book perfectly appropriate for adults as well as children. Irv not only finds his physical head but he finds his inner self as well.

Definitely read this book.

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