Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tomie DePaola

Tomie DePaola is one of my favorite children's author/illustrators.  He is the 2011 recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. To find out more about the award click here.  Tomie also has a wonderful website that teachers and children both will enjoy. It can be found here.

It's hard for me to pick a favorite DePaola book.  I love the books about Strega Nona and the books about Tomie's childhood. Even though his childhood took place during the WWII era, students today can still identify with much of what Tomie felt and experienced.  I what I enjoy most about his books is that they are so kid friendly. The illustrations are beautiful, but easily copied by a child. We all know that kids like to try to draw the pictures they see in the books. It's one way they learn.  Tomie's illustrations are very distinctive. I can usually spot a book he illustrated from across the library.

Reading Rockets has a video interview with Tomie DePaola. I shared it with my 4th graders.  He talks about the stories behind some of his autobiographical books such as The Art Lesson.

Though Tomie writes and illustrates his own books, he also illustrates books written by other authors. One of my favorites is Simple Pictures Are Best by Nancy Willard.  Back in the school I worked at in North Carolina, I did a Tomie DePaola author/illustrator study with the second grade classes. After reading this story I took a class picture - a simple one, then I took another one allowing the students to use all the props they wanted to use. It was great fun. I'm thinking of doing the same with my current 4th and 5th grade classes.

Tomie is a very prolific author/illustrator. Since ALA announced him as the 2011 winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award, I've been trying to catch up his books that I have not read.

Here are a few of my latest reads.

Stagestruck is another autobiographical story from Tomie's childhood.  Tomie, disappointed at not geting the lead in the school play, "Peter Rabbit" still manages to steal the show, but learns a valuable lesson as well.  Little Grunt and the Big Egg is a pre-historic dinosaur fairy tale. Kids who love dinosaurs will love this book.  A New Barker in the House is a delightful picture book about adoption, from the point of few of two twins who are excited (but still not quite prepared) for the addition of a new member to their famil.  To be honest,  Let The Whole Earth Sing Praise is not one of my favorite DePaola books. The illustrations are beautiful in a folk artsy kind of way, but I thought it would have made better note cards than a children's book.

If you've never read any Tomie DePaola books, I hope you will take time to check him out. If you've only read his Strega Nona books I hope you'll check out his other series (The Barkers, folktales and his 26 Fairmont Ave series about his childhood.) 


  1. So glad he was recognized with that award!
    I can't pick a favorite either, but I love Tom. I think I like the fact that children think it is so funny, and it shows "childhood" so well. With only a brief amount of time thinking about it, I think my favorites are the ones based on his childhood, rather than the Strega Nona and the legends. I really like the 26 Fairmont Ave. books.

  2. Joyce: I like Tom, too. I also like the fact that he will respond to letters from children. Granted they are not personal letters, but at least he responds.