Tomie dePaola

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.

An Exclusive Interview

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.

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.”

Books by This Author

26 Fairmount Avenue

Age Level: 6-9
The first in a series of autobiographical chapter books about Tomie dePaola's early years, this story focuses on his family's move from their apartment in Meriden, Connecticut, to the now famous address, 26 Fairmount Avenue. This Newbery Honor book is sprinkled with humorous sketches, and is ideal for reading aloud and for the sharing of family stories.

26 Fairmount Avenue (Audiobook)

Drawing of two smiling adults and a child inside a house while another smiling child sits outside the door.
Age Level: 6-9

Tomie's family starts building their new house at 26 Fairmount Avenue in 1938, just as a hurricane hits town, starting off a busy, crazy year. Tomie has many adventures all his own, including eating chocolate with his Nana Upstairs, only to find out--the hard way--that they have eaten chocolate laxative. He tries to skip kindergarten when he finds out he won't learn to read until first grade. "I'll be back next year," he says. When Tomie goes to see Snow White, he creates another sensation.

Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story

Age Level: 6-9
Adelita’s stepmother and stepsisters relegate her to kitchen duties after her father dies - and they don’t let her attend the fiesta. While details change – a kindly servant takes the place of a fairy godmother and a brightly hued shawl replaces the glass slipper – the story is recognizable as a Cinderella variant. Adelita, published in September of 2002, is rich with the colors, flavors, and sounds of Mexico. Spanish is sprinkled throughout this beautifully decorated book.

Charlie Needs a Cloak

Age Level: 3-6
Charlie's sheep keep nibbling on his cloak, and now it's all tattered and torn. So, he shears his sheep, cards and spins the wool, weaves and dyes the cloth, and sews a beautiful new red cloak to keep him warm when winter comes.

Fin M'coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill

Age Level: 6-9
DePaola uses humor and verve to retell the traditional Irish tale of how Ireland’s Fin M’coul – with the help of his wife – outwits an even bigger giant and creates the topography of Ireland. Characteristic illustrations add to the outsized fun.

My First Thanksgiving

Age Level: 0-3
This small board book provides a first look at the holiday to be shared with the youngest. Clear illustrations are placed in an open format to engage readers and to illuminate traditions and celebrations.

My Mother Is So Smart

Age Level: 3-6
The narrator knows his mom is special by the way she does regular Mom things (like changing a diaper) but more. She also drives an old truck and teaches her son to dance the polka. The author/illustrator’s homage to his mom will be appreciated by mothers everywhere.

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs

Age Level: 3-6
Every Sunday Tommy and his family visit the two nanas: upstairs Nana is Tommy's great-grandmother who stays in bed because of her age; the active Nana downstairs is his grandmother. Tommy is forlorn when Nana upstairs dies, but comes to understand that she remains with him through his fond memories of times shared. New artwork in a larger format was created to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this modern classic.

Oliver Button Is a Sissy

Age Level: 3-6
His classmates taunt Oliver because he prefers to dance and draw and do other things that other boys don't much like. But Oliver's practice and passion for dance gain the respect and admiration of the kids after his performance. This tough topic is handled with sensitivity and humor in both text and illustration.

Pancakes for Breakfast

Age Level: 3-6
An old woman decides to make pancakes for breakfast on a snowy morning. It’s not so easy though. She must gather the eggs and even find maple syrup. Will her animals help? Humor abounds in this wordless picture book, sure to change with each reading.


Books by This Illustrator

Erandi's Braids

Illustration of young girl's braids
Illustrated by: Tomie dePaola
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: The yellow dress Erandi wants for her birthday will look beautiful with her long, thick braids. But Mama's fishing net is full of holes, and there isn't enough money to buy both a new net and a birthday dress. The only solution lies with the hair buyers from the city. But Mama's hair isn't nearly as beautiful as Erandi's. Will Erandi have to choose between her birthday present and her braids? This touching tale of love and sacrifice is sprinkled throughout with Spanish words and expressions.

Frida Kahlo: The Artist who Painted Herself

Frida Kahlo: The Artist who Painted Herself
Illustrated by: Tomie dePaola
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Through original artwork by the renowned artist Tomie dePaola — a longtime aficionado of Frida Kahlo's work — as well as beautiful reproductions of Kahlo's paintings, this latest Smart About book explores the creative, imaginative world of Mexico's most celebrated female artist.