RIP Tomie dePaola

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?

42 thoughts on “RIP Tomie dePaola”

  1. “Voyage to the Bunny Planet”, Rosemary Wells. Includes three stories—First Tomato, The Island Light, and Moss Pillows

    All the Robert McCloskey books, especially “One Morning in Maine”, “Blueberries for Sal”, “Time of Wonder”

    All of these stories are so relatable and comforting, and I still pull them out every so often just to look at the pictures! I’ve passed on so many of my children’s books to the grandchildren, but have kept these at my house and bought them copies because I can’t bear to part with mine.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. When our girls were little, Maurice Sendak was big, along with Tomie
      dePaola and Tasha Tudor. I remember when Butler Square downtown was first redeveloped, there was a great children’s bookstore downstairs and Robin and I would sometimes meet there at lunchtime. Once the Hurds (authors of Goodnight Moon, among others) were there and for a while we had an autographed copy of Moon. We also bought some beautiful prints of illustrations from Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are that We managed to preserve all these years and recently rematted and framed for my grandson.

      When I was little, I didn’t have many books. I remember Golden Books and this set from Better Homes and Gardens:
      https://www.biblio.com/book/better-homes-gardens-story-book-1950/d/475772879

      When I was a little older (maybe 10), some friends of my parents, a childless couple who took a shine to me, started giving me Oz books. My favorite of the Oz authors is John R. Neill, the illustrator, who engaged in more witty wordplay than did Baum or Ruth Plumly Thompson.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. The art in children’s books is often hauntingly beautiful. I have far more favorites than I can list here.

    A lesser-known masterpiece is The Visit (written by Joan Esley and illustrated by Eloise Wilkins). It was a favorite in our family, and we had literally hundreds of kids’ books. When we remember this book, it is the art that shines brightly in memory.

    I adored the whimsy of William Steig. A favorite was Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Steig was one of the most accomplished New Yorker cartoonists in his time.

    Of course, there is the Winnie The Pooh series that was illustrated by E H Shepard. The art is so central to the books that fans of the books are infuriated by the way the characters were rendered in Disney films. No, no, no! The look of Winnie the Pooh is E H Shepard.

    And then there is the magical realism of Goodnight Moon, with words by Margaret Wise Brown and art by Clement Hurd. This book was recently in the news. The woman who invented children’s rooms in libraries, Anne Carroll Moore, hated Goodnight Moon so vigorously she kept it banned from the New York Public Library for 35 years.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I loved the illustrations in The Velveteen Rabbit. It was one of the first books for which the publisher offered a companion stuffed animal. Around the same time you could get a Where the Wild Things Are monster with your book. I still have one of those.

    Oscar Wilde’s The happy Prince is less a children’s book than a fairy tale for adults, but the illustrations in my copy, by Jean Claverie, are quite lovely.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Tommie dePaola wrote a couple of books about a family of Welsh Terriers, aptly named The Barkers. I understand he had several Welshies at his house. We loved his books all the more for that reason. The Clown of God is one of our favorites as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. i loved pulling out polar express when my kids were little. the pictures by chris von alsberg were perfect . i have a dayton’s shopping bag from late 60’s that i saved and later deconstructed and framed
    i just gave it to my grandson a little while ago for his bedroom

    Liked by 4 people

  6. There were a couple of books my sister and I had when we were very small, both called 365 Bedtime Stories. The idea was that you’d get the book about Christmastime and then start reading a daily story on January 1. One of the books was illustrated by Richard Scarry and featured a lot of short pieces, mostly about animals. The other was skewed for slightly older children, with illustrations that weren’t so cartoonish, and contained stories about a neighborhood and the children that lived there. One of the houses, depicted on a map at the very end of the street, belonged to a kindly old woman named Mrs. Apricot. It would be fun to see those books again.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Husband used to tell stories about three little perch in one of the lakes outside of Bismarck. The fish were named Flippy, Drippy, and Zippy. They had personalities that fit their names. My father used to tell me stories about adventurous pugs. There were several pugs in the stories, all named after popular Oldsmobiles of the 50’s and 60’s.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. My dad used to tell us stories about Pedro and Pepita, Filipino children he made up (he served in the Philippines in WW2). We were probably 2, 3 and 4. I only remember one of those stories now.

        When I put my daughter to bed, I usually invented stories. She loved stories that starred a smart and brave little girl named Molly. I would usually tell her three or four stories a night. Her favorite short one was The Ant. It was a perfect kid’s story: short, funny and it ended in poop.

        An ant was crawling along a blade of grass.
        Along came a cow and ate the grass.
        Inside the cow it was warm and dark, so the ant fell asleep.
        When he woke up, the cow was gone.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. The bedtime story my girls most often requested was something we called “Leaf Stories”. As with most bedtime stories, the objective was putting them to sleep and Leaf Stories were essentially structureless descriptive stories of the experiences of a little leaf as it fluttered at the top of a tree, then drifted slowly to earth, landing in a gentle stream where it floated slowly through meadows and woods and always had gentle, gliding, quiet adventures until zzzzzzzzzzz…

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Another illustrator I love is Wallace Tripp – he illustrated a book of nonsense verse that I still possess: A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me and the Amelia Bedelia books, and wrote, i.e., Marguerite Go Wash Your Feet.

    I loved Mary Raynor’s pig vs.wolf books, the first being Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady… and the Frances books by Russell Hogan, Bread and Jam for Frances being the favorite.

    Then at the Swedish Institute I ran into Sven Nordqvist, who with his cat Mercury created Pancake Pie et al. https://www.abebooks.com/Pancake-Pie-English-Swedish-Edition-Nordqvist/30410140029/bd?cm_mmc=ggl-_-US_Shopp_Trade-_-used-_-naa&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIg7Gk5-rM6AIV5ZJbCh3ElwBfEAQYASABEgJSKfD_BwE

    So many of these have this subtle humor underlying the story line, and the child may pick it up on a different level than the adult reading, but they get it all the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. There was a book of poems by a pair of sisters named Clyde and Wendy Watson called “Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes” that my girls loved.
    Rhymes like:
    Dilly dilly pickalilly
    Tell me something
    Very silly—
    There was a man
    His name was Burt
    He ate the buttons
    Off his shirt.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. YA’s favorite When she was little was Jan Brett. I think because of all the great animal illustrations. And I of course also loves Susan Jeffers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Other than Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, the only books I remember from my early childhood were Alice in Wonderland (in English) and Winnie-the-Pooh in Danish (Peter Plys). I don’t recall mom ever reading to us, but dad would whenever he was home. I didn’t learn to read until I started school at age seven, but I remember being fascinated by the illustrations of my copy of Alice in Wonderland. I would spend hours making up my own stories inspired by those illustrations. Winnie- the-Pooh was read in nightly installments on the radio by a Danish actress, and I loved listening while following along in my own copy of the book.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. HI-
    Aw, Tomie dePaola. My introduction to him was Sylvia, the Young Peoples Theater director when I first started doing theater. She did a production of ‘Helga’s Dowery’ at the theater and it was the first time a community theater was allowed and Tomie came to visit. I knew it seemed like a pretty big deal, but, I didn’t know HOW big a deal this was.
    so that was pretty cool. Sylvia and Tomie became fast friends.

    Myself, I grew up with those hard cover ‘I can read’ books. Danny and the Dinosaur, The Firehouse Cat, and one about bears and mittens stick in my mind.
    I tease Kelly, sometimes she wears a dress and black stockings and she reminds me of Mrs Goodkind. She’s not sure it’s a compliment.

    Liked by 6 people

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