When my daughters Emma and Tess were six and four, we met Tomie dePaola at a book signing in Oakbrook, Ill., for his then-latest release, Jingle, the Christmas Clown. The girls were shy about meeting the artist who had created Strega Nona and The Art Lesson, classics in our home library. They were hanging back, half-hidden behind bookshelves.
Tomie not only graciously autographed Jingle but also signed the well-loved copies of his The First Christmas pop-up book and Merry Christmas, Strega Nona that we had toted with us.
Tomie was born in 1934 into an Italian-Irish family in Meriden, Conn. An artist from a young age, he has written and/or illustrated more than 250 books and has received every major children’s book award including the Newbery Award, the Caldecott Medal, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. Of his works, I can only say, they make me smile inside. As a writer, I relate to his narratives, which are wise to the universal foibles of human nature. Since I’m not versed in art, I’ll quote illustrator Beth Gismondi on what makes Tomie’s illustrations unique.
“Tomie is known for his distinctive, deceptively simple style: bold outlines, washes of bright color, and very linear compositions. However, as many illustration students soon realize, simplicity is anything but easy to achieve. Tomie has a full mastery of his technique and characters when he works in his minimalist line-and-wash style. He can indicate a facial expression in four lines! Every mark counts, and there is no way to hide a mistake when working in translucent washes of paint.”
You can read about Tomie’s life and art on his Website. To order autographed Tomie books, visit Morgan Hill Bookstore in Tomie’s hometown of New London, N.H.
Talk about expressive facial renderings! Strega Nona was, at a point in time, as familiar to me as my own grandmother.
Tomie’s books are as beautiful as they are wise. Fond memories….
Joyce Heitler says
I have read all of Tomie de Paola’s books to my kindergarten classes and I have two favorites,
“Tony’s Bread” a legend about how panettone, the Italian Christmas bread, originated. After reading the story, I would always cut up the panettone for my students.
The second is “The Legend of the Poinsettia” a retelling of the legend and I then would display a poinsettia in the classroom.
I actually got to hear him and meet him at a teachers convention in Los Angeles and had a photo taken with him.
He was our featured author of the month of Dec. in my class with all his books on the shelf and a photo of “moi” with him.
What a beautiful memory. Lucky students who get to sample panettone in class! Grazie