Eugene Yelchin Article

Eugene Yelchin


Born: 1956 in St. Petersburg, Soviet Union

  • Nationality: American
  • Occupation: Illustrator



  • (And illustrator) Breaking Stalin's Nose, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2011.


  • Gary Clemente, Cosom Gets an Ear, Modern Signs Press (Los Alamitos, CA), 1994.
  • Karen Beaumont, Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2008.
  • Musharraf Ali Farooqui, The Cobbler's Holiday; or, Why Ants Don't Have Shoes, Roaring Book Press (New York, NY), 2008.
  • Ann Hodgman, The House of a Million Pets, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2008.
  • (And author, with wife, Mary Kuryla-Yelchin, as The Ghost Society) Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2008.
  • (And author, with Mary Kuryla) Heart of a Snowman, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2009.
  • Candace Fleming, Seven Hungry Babies, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2010.
  • Ann Redisch Stampler, The Rooster Prince of Breslov, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2010.
  • Lee Wardlaw, Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2010.
  • Mary Kuryla, The Next Door Bear, Harper (New York, NY), 2011.
  • Barbara Joosse, Dog Parade, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, MA), 2011.
  • Carole Gerber, Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2013.


Contributor of illustrations to periodicals and newspapers.


Illustrator, fine-art painter, and filmmaker. Set and costume designer for Soviet theater until 1983; Boston Globe, Boston, MA, editorial illustrator, beginning 1983; storyboard artist, beginning mid-1980s; director of television commercials, beginning 1990s. Character designer for animated film Rango, 2011. Exhibitions: Paintings exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe and the United States, including solo exhibitions at Roy G. Biv Gallery, Palm Springs, CA, 1995; Umerov Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, 1995; Cypress College Gallery, Cypress, CA, 1996; Diane Nelson Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA, 1997; Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, 2002, 2005; Mizel Art Center, Denver, CO, 2006; and Hillel USC, Los Angeles, 2007.


Tomi DePaola Illustration Award, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 2006; National Jewish Book Award, 2010, for The Rooster Prince of Breslov; The Best Children's Books of 2011, Horn Book, The Best Children's Book of 2011, Washington Post, both 2011, both for Breaking Stalin's Nose; Newberry Honor Book, American Library Association, 2012, for Breaking Stalin's Nose, Distinguished Work of Historical Fiction Award, Children's Literature Council, 2012, for Breaking Stalin's Nose, Women's National Book Association's Judy Lopez Memorial Award, 2012, for Breaking Stalin's Nose.


Born 1956, in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia); immigrated to United States, 1983; mother a dance teacher; married Mary Kuryla (a writer); children: Isaac, Ezra. Education: Leningrad Institute of Theatre Arts, degree; University of Southern California, master's degree. Religion: Jewish. Memberships: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Directors Guild of America. Addresses: Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House, 7660 Fay Ave., No. 338H, La Jolla, CA 92037. Office: Eugene Yelchin, 1555 Greenleaf Canyon Road, Topanga, CA 90290. E-mail:





Born in the former USSR, Eugene Yelchin worked in Russian theatre before trading life under communism for a fresh start in the United States. In addition to winning respect for his work in advertising art and film--he designed the first polar-bear advertisements used by Coca Cola--Yelchin has become a widely exhibited fine-art painter. He has also found an outlet for his creativity in children's picture books, where his work appears alongside stories by Candace Fleming, Ann Hodgman, Lee Wardlaw, Ann Redisch Stampler, Barbara Joosse, and his own wife, author Mary Kuryla. In 2011 Yelchin also added "author" to his list of credits with a self-illustrated story that draws on his memories of growing up in the USSR: Breaking Stalin's Nose.

In an interview on the American Jewish Library Web site, Yelchin explained how he first became fascinated with books: "I have always had a huge respect and a fascination with an illustrated book. A book that allows equal, or even more weight, to the image than it does to the word is very appealing to any visual artist. At the same time, I have a sentimental attachment to a book as an object. In Soviet Russia where I grew up, books were very difficult to get. ... When I was a boy, my parents would take me along on their visits to a family of friends. That family happened to have a wonderful library."

In Karen Beaumont's Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?, a lift-the-flap book that was also one of Yelchin's first illustration projects, a kangaroo searches for a cookie-dough thief.

In bringing to life Beaumont's humorous tale, he creates what School Library Journal contributor Marge Loch-Wouters described as "stylized gouache illustrations" that feature the artist's characteristic "light, humorous touch." "The amusing illustrations of popular animals and the jaunty rhythm and rhyme will make this a favorite," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer of the same book.

Yelchin revisions several unusual folktales in his artwork for Musharraf Ali Farooqui's Persian folktale retelling The Cobbler's Holiday; or, Why Ants Don't Have Shoes and Stampler's The Rooster Prince of Breslov, which updates a traditional Yiddish story. Farooqui's "dainty, droll fable" is enlivened with "a modish Jazz Age aesthetic" that includes what a Publishers Weekly critic described as "flappers and dandies sport[ing] ritzy top hats and beaded caps."

In Kirkus Reviews a critic concluded that Yelchin's use of "shifting perspectives and placement add ... to the fun" of Farooqui's tale. Stampler's story, which focuses on a monarch who trades the pressures of leadership for life as a farmyard rooster, also benefits from what School Library Journal contributor Rachel Kamin described as "imaginative, graphite and gouache illustrations" that capture the energy of the author's "witty retelling." Praising The Rooster Prince of Breslov as "a venerable ... tale with a message for our time," Horn Book reviewer Joanna Rudge Long added that the artist captures the wry humor in Stampler's text. Yelchin underlines the story's subtlety and humor with expressively exaggerated poses and apt caricatures rendered in minimal line and vivid gouache," the critic added.

Hodgman's The House of a Million Pets is a memoir of the author's experiences sharing her rural New England home with a menagerie of critters over many years. Described by New York Times Book Review contributor J.D. Biersdorfer as "part autobiography, part pet-care guide," The House of a Million Pets benefits from "Yelchin's black-and-white illustrations [which] add a note of whimsy." Featuring everything from cats and dogs to bunnies, voles, canaries, a prairie dog, and dozens of pygmy mice, the artist's "realistic, expressive animal drawings" help make the book "a natural for reading aloud," according to Booklist critic Debbie Carton.

In School Library Journal Patricia Manning predicted that Yelchin's "small, soft black-and-white illustrations" are "certain to prompt pet-craving urges" in young readers, while a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed the art for The House of a Million Pets "absolutely charming."

Described by Loch-Wouters as a "bouncy, onomatopoeic tale," Fleming's Seven Hungry Babies finds a mother bird busy finding food for her hungry young nestlings.

Yelchin's use of "unexpected perspectives" and clean tones of blue, yellow, and red help make the book "perfect for group storytimes," according to Wouters, while a Kirkus Reviews writer noted the effective combination of the artist's "gouache illustrations" and Fleming's "perfectly pitched" text. A feline is the focus of Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, and here Wardlaw's "Japanese haiku theme ... is carried through with elements and backgrounds lifted from old woodblock prints," according to a Publishers Weekly critic.

In 2011 Yelchin released his first self-illustrated novel, Breaking Stalin's Nose. The novel is greatly influenced by Yelchin's upbringing in post-Stalinist Russia in the 1960s. The work is narrated from the perspective of Sasha Zaichik, a ten-year-old growing up in Soviet Russia under Stalin. The story takes place over the course of just two days, during which Sasha loses his childhood innocence. Sasha lives with his widower father and nearly fifty other people in a crowded apartment. Sasha looks up to his father, a member of the State Security secret police. Sasha is incredibly devoted to Stalin and even writes him letters expressing how excited he is to work for him one day. His life with his father is fairly simple until one day Sasha's father is arrested and carted away, leaving Sasha on his own. Then, Sasha is recruited at school to report anticommunist activity, which leads him into situations that a ten-year-old boy should never have to deal with. Though the story is told from a child's perspective, Breaking Stalin's Nose suggests violence and torture, though it is never depicted graphically. In the book's afterword, Yelchin goes into greater detail about the Stalin regime and the effect that it had on millions of innocent lives.

Reviewing the work, Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman said that Yelchin "uses the child's innocent viewpoint to dramatize the heartbreaking secrets and lies" in the book. Horn Book contributor Robin L. Smith said: "Appropriately menacing illustrations by first-time novelist Yelchin add a sinister tone. Although the story takes place over just two days, it is well paced." A Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked: "Yelchin's graphite illustrations are an effective complement to his prose, which unfurls in Sasha's steady, first-person voice."