Tomie dePaola Writes of Family and Faith

Tomie dePaola (pronounced "Tommy de -powla") was born just as the hard times of the Great Depression were coming to an end in 1934. When Tomie was a boy, there was no television, but he never missed it! He stayed glued to the radio to listen to his favorite show, Let's Pretend. Every week, the actors on Let's Pretend acted out stories of heroes, goblins, princesses, and talking animals. The show fired Tomie's imagination. By the time he was four years old, he knew he wanted to be an artist.

One person who would not be at all surprised at Tomie's later success is his first-grade teacher. He told her that someday he was going to make books with pictures. Indeed, he made a lot of them: over ninety books and still counting! On Christmas when he was nine, his family gave him lots of art supplies: The Art Lessonpaints, brushes, instruction books, and an easel. Tomie never got tired of drawing. By the time he was ten, he was creating picture books for birthday presents for his younger sisters.

He kept his art going through high school and was determined to study at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York. Upon graduation from the institute, he spent six months in a Benedictine monastery in Vermont. Although he did not choose to become a monk, he said that his stay there greatly strengthened his spiritual values.

Tomie taught art at colleges in the 1950s and 1960s. His first illustrated book was one about science-- Sound, written by Lisa Miller. When the time came to write his own books, dePaola drew on his close-knit family's Italian and Irish American background to create new folk tales, retell Christian legends, and gently teach truths about loving families.

He wrote and illustrated Strega Nona, a retelling of the magic cooking pot story found the world over, and his own Italian twist. Strega Nona was a Caldecott Honor Book and can also be found on videocassette and audio cassette in the library. DePaola also reworked the stuff of older Christian traditions to create The Clown of God, The Legend of Old Befana, The Friendly Beasts, Francis, the Poor Man of Assisi, and The Night of Las Posadas.

His books, Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs and Now One Foot, Now the Other, are drawn from his relationships with his own grandparents. The focus of these books is on the healing power of love and love's memory for young children faced with losing a grandparent or having an older relative suffer from a disability. These are quiet and serious books that have received much praise from both readers and reviewers.

Strega NonaTomie dePaola's art is appreciated by a large audience. His murals adorn the walls of New England monasteries and churches. He has also created theatrical sets, greeting cards, posters, and record album covers.

Find Out More About Tomie dePaola:

Click here to see a complete list of materials owned by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library which feature the work of Tomie DePaola, and check out these great sites on the Internet:

BookPage Interview: Tomie dePaola
A super quick interview with dePaola upon the publication of Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka.

Additional information is available to CRRL card holders through Biography Resource Center.