Tomie dePaola (da POW la) is one of today’s most recognized names in the world of children’s literature. His charming characters and distinctive artistic style make his picture books appealing to both children and adults. He has published folktales, nursery rhymes, board books, religious books, chapter books, and more. All in all, dePaola has illustrated over 200 children’s books and written stories for nearly half of them.
But Tomie dePaola’s popularity reaches beyond his books. He is a warm and energetic person who loves children and knows how to entertain a crowd. Over the years, dePaola has visited elementary schools, taught college classes, and traversed the country on book tours. He has been featured by large media outlets such as NBC, NPR, and USA TODAY. When dePaola presented a signed copy of his artwork to former First Lady Hillary Clinton, she exclaimed, "Oh, Tomie, I just love you!" DePaola’s outgoing personality has also led to various guest appearances on public television’s Barney and Friends.
At this year’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ conference in Los Angeles, Tomie dePaola led workshops, moderated panel discussions, and signed books. He also found time to sit down with Reading Rockets’ David Meissner for what turned out to be an entertaining, hour-long interview. On camera, dePaola retold comical childhood tales, reflected on his career, and discussed future projects. He also suggested ways that parents and teachers could encourage young readers and artists. For a closer look at this charismatic storyteller, click on the links below.
- Watch interview clips and/or read the text
- Learn about his life
- See featured books
- Read entire interview
A Storied Life
Tomie dePaola grew up in the small town of Meriden, Connecticut in the 1930’s and 40’s. At the age of four, he announced to his family, “I am going to be an artist when I grow up, and write stories and draw pictures for books.” During his childhood, dePaola painted and drew in his attic “studio” and asked for art supplies each Christmas. In 1956, dePaola received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in New York. In 1965, he began illustrating children’s books.
Throughout his successful career, Tomie dePaola has been recognized for his artistic talents. In 1976 his illustrations for Strega Nona earned him the American Library Association’s Caldecott Honor. But it was only recently that dePaola became an award-winning author as well. When an irresistible letter from a fourth-grade girl begged him to write a chapter book, dePaola started writing down childhood stories. By 1999, dePaola and his editor had shaped these stories into a book called 26 Fairmont Avenue. The following year this first attempt at a chapter book won a prestigious Newbery Honor.
Today Tomie dePaola lives in rural New Hampshire and works from his studio in a renovated 200-year-old barn. Each year dePaola publishes four new books and receives 100,000 fan letters. At age 68, his energy is high and daily events continue to inspire new stories. So just how long will he keep this up? “I figure I have another good 20 years,” he says with a smile. “And then I’ll relax.”