When I was working in the book industry (B. Dalton and then Software, Etc.), my employee discount was a blessing and a curse. Nice to get a discount on books but dangerous to someone who didn’t have a lot of disposable income. During those years, the books that often went home with me were children’s books, particularly those with lavish illustrations.
If you have/had kids in your life, you’ve probably seen some of Tomie dePaola’s work. In addition to writing his own stories, he also did all his own illustrations as well as illustrating for many other authors. Often his work depicted his vision of folk stories or legends, including stories of his most memorable character: Strega Nona. The first of the Strega Nona stories is a bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Strega Nona leaves Big Anthony at her hut while she is out and he is determined to show the village folks how her magic pasta pot works. As you can imagine, it doesn’t go well, but Strega Nona gets home just in time to avert disaster.
Tomie dePaola passed away this week, complications from surgery after a fall at his barn studio on his property in New Hampshire, where he had lived since 1973. He was still working at the age of 85! Over his career, he wrote and/or illustrated over 260 books and won just about every award there is for children’s literature, including a lifetime achievement award presented in 2011 by the Children’s Literature Legacy, a branch of the American Library Association.
I have quite a few Tomie dePaola books, from a signed copy of Strega Nona to volumes of nursery rhymes, poems and folktales to The Legend of Bluebonnet, The Legend of Poinsettia (one of my holiday favorites) and a stunning pop-up book, Giorgio’s Village. As I’ve been cleaning out and cutting back, I have hit my bookshelves hard, but I haven’t had the heart to cull any of my Tomie dePaola. I don’t know if I’ll have grandkids at any point, but I’d better hang on to them, just in case.
We’ll miss you Tomie.
Is there a children’s author or illustrator that you’re fond of? Or that your kids or grandkids are fond of?