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Ludmila Zeman (1947-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1947, in Gottwaldov, Czechoslovakia (now Zlín, Czech Republic); immigrated to Canada, 1984; became Canadian citizen, 1988; daughter of Karel Ludmila Zeman Zeman (a filmmaker); Education: Attended art school in Czechoslovakia, and Palacky University.

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tundra Books of Northern New York, P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, NY 12901.

Filmmaker, illustrator, animator, and writer. Built puppets and painted backgrounds for Karel Zeman's films, including Mr. Prokouk the Acrobat; sold first animated short film to Czech TV at age nineteen; created films for Sesame Street and the National Film Board of Canada. Emily Carr College of Art, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, instructor.

Certificate of Merit, Art Directors Club, and Pick of the List selection, American Booksellers Association, both 1992, and Black-Eyed Susan Picture Book selection, State of Maryland, 1995-96, all for Gilgamesh the King; Gilgamesh the King and The Revenge of Ishtar were both selected for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1994; Governor General's Award for Illustration, Canada Council, 1995, for The Last Quest of Gilgamesh.

(And director and animator; with husband, Eugene Spaleny) Lord of the Sky (film; also known as Le maître du ciel), National Film Board of Canada (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1991.

(Self-illustrated) The First Red Maple Leaf, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1997.

Also illustrator of the Czech book Linda, the Gardener's Cat. Zeman's works are also available in French, Portuguese, and Japanese.


Gilgamesh the King, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1992.

The Revenge of Ishtar, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1993.

The Last Quest of Gilgamesh, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1995.


Sinbad: From the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1999.

Sinbad in the Land of Giants, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2001.

Sinbad's Secret, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2003.

A feature film based on her "Gilgamesh" trilogy.

Czech-born Canadian author Ludmila Zeman has lived in the world of professional storytellers since she was a child. Her father, Karel Zeman, was a well-known creator of films for children in Czechoslovakia. During school vacations, Zeman spent most of her time at her father's studio, where she helped to create puppets and paint backgrounds. When she was nineteen, Zeman tried her hand at building the puppets for and animating her own short film. The resulting creation was sold to Czech television. Zeman also illustrated a popular Czech children's book, Linda, the Gardener's Cat, before an offer to teach at the Emily Carr School of Art in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, led her to leave her native country. Since arriving in Canada, Zeman and her husband have continued to make films, and Zeman has become the author of several self-illustrated books in English.

Zeman drew on the folklore of the Middle East for two trilogies of picture books. The first, a retelling of the ancient Mesopotamian legend of Gilgamesh, won her the prestigious Governor General's Award for Illustration. The second trilogy retells the legends of Sinbad's adventures, which were originally recounted in The Thousand and One Nights. Throughout these books, Zeman draws on the art as well as the stories of the Middle East. The "lavish" illustrations are "framed with designs reminiscent of Persian carpets," Ann Ketcheson observed in a Resource Links review of Sinbad's Secret. Margaret A. Chang, writing in School Library Journal about the same work, found the book's "richly colored illustrations, detailed, coherent, and carefully composed, . . . reminiscent of Persian miniatures." Zeman's texts for the "Sinbad" trilogy were also praised. The original stories from The Thousand and One Nights are full of adventure, and Zeman's writing reflects this: it is "exciting, fast moving and lyrical," Isobel Lang wrote of Sinbad in the Land of Giants in Resource Links. Yet, as Ketcheson observed, "Zeman retains the somewhat formal speech expected in a classic story."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, November 15, 1992, Nancy McCray, review of Lord of the Sky, p. 615; August, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Sinbad in the Land of Giants, p. 2126.

Books in Canada, July, 2001, review of Sinbad in the Land of Giants, p. 33.

Canadian Children's Literature, spring, 2001, review of Sinbad: From the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, pp. 169-171.

Canadian Literature, autumn, 1995, Gernot R. Wieland, review of The Revenge of Ishtar, pp. 146-147.

Canadian Materials, January, 1993, review of Gilgamesh the King, pp. 20-21.

Maclean's, November 22, 1999, Patricia Chisholm, Patricia Hluchy, and Barbara Wickens, review of Sinbad, p. 98.

Publishers Weekly, January 3, 2000, review of Sinbad, p. 75; February 24, 2003, review of Sinbad's Secret, p. 74.

Quill and Quire, September, 1993, review of The Revenge of Ishtar, p. 67; June, 1997, review of The First Red Maple Leaf, pp. 63-64; February, 1999, review of Sinbad, p. 45; June, 2001, review of Sinbad in the Land of Giants, p. 51.

Resource Links, August, 1997, review of The First Red Maple Leaf, p. 255; February, 2000, review of Sinbad, p. 6; October, 2001, Isobel Lang, review of Sinbad in the Land of Giants, p. 7; April, 2003, Ann Ketcheson, review of Sinbad's Secret, pp. 50-51.

School Library Journal, June, 1993, Nancy Palmer, review of Gilgamesh the King, p. 124; January, 2000, Grace Oliff, review of Sinbad, p. 127; August, 2001, Ann Welton, review of Sinbad in the Land of Giants, p. 174; March, 2003, Margaret A. Chang, review of Sinbad's Secret, p. 225.


Canadian Children's Book Centre, http://www.bookcentre.ca/ (April 20, 2004), "Ludmila Zeman."

Tundra Books Web Site, http://www.tundrabooks.com/ (January 14, 2004), interview with Zeman.

Writers Union of Canada Web Site, http://www.writersunion.ca/ (January 14, 2004), "Ludmila Zeman."*

Additional topics

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