Who Needs Donuts? - Thao Lam
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Who Needs Donuts?

Who Needs Donuts?

Who Needs Donuts?

“Little Island Comics is the first kids comic book store in North America – maybe even the world!” I am not sure if I should be terrified or super excited that it’s here. Endless joy just steps away from my backyard! Will this only feed my addiction?

Brand spanking new Little Island Comics opened in October 2011 with an impressive collection of children’s books, comics, graphic novels and manga for kids. Since it’s opening, Little Island Comics has hosted an array of books launches featuring local and international talents, creating a wonderful and much needed buzz around books for children.

Over the next little while I will be sharing my stash of goodies from this magical place. Keep reading…

I am going to try my best to describe Mark Alan Stamaty’s book, Who Needs Donuts? but I highly recommend you experience it for yourself. It’s like an expected punch in the face that lands you at the bottom of a rabbit hole; overwhelming your senses and leaving you feel dazed. Welcome to Mark Alan Stamaty’s Wonderland. Who Needs Donuts? is an absurdly weird and outlandish story about a boy’s love for donuts.

Sam’s love for donuts takes him to the big city where he meets Mr. Bikferd, a donut enthusiast like himself. Together they roam the streets collecting delicious donuts and filling their tummies. This delectable lifestyle doesn’t last, however, when Mr. Bikferd falls in love with Pretzel Annie. Sam learns a valuable lesson in love when a prophecy of an old woman comes true: “Who needs donuts when you’ve got love?”

Who needs donuts when you are all alone in the big city? Sadly pulling along his wagon full of donuts, Sam hears screams for help. The old woman is drowning in a basement flooded with lukewarm coffee. Without hesitation Sam pours all the donuts into the basement, which soaks up all the coffee leaving the old woman sitting in a shallow puddle (brilliant!) Grateful, she offers him her life savings to buy more donuts but Sam refuses. “Who needs donuts?” he says. “I’ve got love” and heads home to his family.

Every square inch of Mark Alan Stamaty’s black and white drawings is densely packed, filled to the breaking point with characters and details. You could spend hours picking apart all the insane references Stamaty hid throughout its pages. Tiny hand written text scribbled and squished into every available space, this book makes Where’s Waldo look tame in comparison. Stamaty’s induced chaos at times looks frantic and defies logic with surreal animals and oddly dressed characters having bizarre conversations. With dilated pupils and manic grins, the characters’ love for donuts looks more like an addiction problem.

Who Needs Donuts? actually comes with a warning label “This book is addictive.” This likely covers the publisher against all liabilities like eye fatigue, donut addictions and any excessive weight gain this book might induce.

Originally published in 1973, Who Needs Donuts? was out of print for years. Quietly this book gained an underground following. Limited editions of Who Needs Donuts? were much sought after, with fans paying up to $500. Who Needs Donuts? was brought back to print 28 years later, by a fan of course (who happened to be the publicity director for Random House children’s books).

Who Needs Donuts?, a children’s book review by Thao Lam

(This blog entry is dedicated to the fans, for your off-the-wall humor, and your appreciation of the ludicrous and wacky. Thanks for putting this book back on bookshelves.)

Author and Illustrator Mark Alan Stamaty

It not hard to image where Mark Alan Stamaty got his talent from or who his influences were; his late father, Stanley Stamaty was a cartoonist and his mother, Clare Gee Stamaty was a commercial illustrator and fine artist. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York in 1947. Stamaty attended Cooper Union, a private college in New York City, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts.

I am always tickled pink when an author or an illustrator, takes time out of their busy schedule to reply to a fan mail.

“The coming into being of Who Needs Donuts?  began when I was in art school. I often spent time in a Bickford’s Coffee Shop on 3rd Ave & 23rd Street (NYC) that was open all night. I carried a pad & pen – (I always do ) – and would observe the various characters and interactions. One night a well-dressed man ordered two cups of coffee to go. The waitress asked if he wanted donuts with his coffee and he said “No, thank you.”  At that point, a sad old woman – who’d seemingly been napping on the counter – suddenly lifted her head, pointed at the ceiling and said: “That’s right! Who needs donuts when you’ve got love?!” Immediately, I wrote that in my sketchbook and, later, wrote it on a larger sheet of paper that I put up on my wall.  

Several years later while trying to come up with a children’s book story, I looked at that sign and decided I wanted to try to make that woman’s statement known to the wider world.

Another central aspect of Who Needs Donuts? is my love of New York City. Especially the intense energy of street life and all the endless activity and detail. And a kind of craziness that can be quite funny at times, as well as poignant. And, of course, I wanted to put my own twist on it. Having grown up in a somewhat sleepy-ish (at the time) town on the Jersey shore, I was exhilarated by the contrast when I moved here. People often ask me how long it took me to do a particular page or the whole book and it’s really hard to say. I was aiming for a sort of intuitive vision and I got as close to it as I could. And I suppose it’s fair to say I was rather obsessive in my pursuit. And it did require a lot of time and energy. Since New York City is infinitely fascinating, I suppose I was, in some sense, pursuing infinity and I shouldn’t expect to have ever gotten all of it.

For anyone who visits New York City, there are, of course, tons of attractions to see – lots of which cost money. But the great thing about this city is that you can have quite an experience just walking around.

I will say I have always been glad that I put that giraffe in that spread in the warehouse full of all the donuts. Some children do expect there to be something in that pile besides just donuts and I’m glad I didn’t waste their (searching) time.

It always feels good when I produce a personal vision like Who Needs Donuts? and people appreciate it. That’s got to be one of the most gratifying experiences in life.”

– Mark Alan Stamaty –


Mark Alan Stamaty has a following; I stumbled across this insightful interview conducted by a fan that is worth reading www.randsinrepose.com

There are tons of illustrations posted on Mark Alan Stamaty’s website so join the following and check out his website, you won’t be disappointed www.stamaty.engelbachdesign.com


Publisher Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 23, 2003)

ISBN-10 0375825509

ISBN-13 978-0375825507