Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tomie dePaola's Birthday - September 15

Happy Birthday Tomie dePaola- Born September 15, 1934

Tomie dePaola receives over 100,000 fan letters each year according to his website, Tomie.com.  His fans have been able to enjoy over 200 of his illustrated books which includes over 100 he wrote himself.  He has received many of the most notable honors in children's literature including the Newbery Honor for 26 Fairmount Avenue and Caldecott Honor for Strega Nona. Most recently, he is handing out an honor of his own with the Tomie dePaola Illustration Award which was just made a permanent annual award by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

I decided to become one of the many fan letters that Tomie gets each year when I wrote to ask him to share a birthday memory.  I was so excited when I got a response from his assistant, Bob Hechtel. He forwarded a excerpt from his 2002 book, What a Year!, which is a part of the autobiographical 26 Fairmount Avenue series:

"And don't forget, because it's your birthday, you get to do one thing you really want to do." That was a custom in our house.  "Have you thought about it yet?" Mom asked...

"Yes, Mom," I answered. "I want to cook my own dinner. I want to cook a POP-EYE..."

So later, when Dad got home, I made a pop-eye for my own dinner! Mom tied an apron around my waist. I took a piece of bread and cut a hole in the middle of it. Then I cracked an egg into a cup. Dad got the small iron frying pan and put it on the stove.  Then he put a chair with its back against the stove for me to stand on.

Mom turned on the stove, and I dropped some butter into the frying pan until it sizzled. Mom and Dad stood on either side of me - just in case, I guess.

I took the "hole" and fried it in the butter until it was crispy. I did the same thing with one side of the piece of bread. Then I turned it over and carefully poured the egg into the hole.  It cooked some more. I turned it over again, and it was done. I put it on a plate and put the fried "hole" on top. It was delicious!

Great-Grandparents and Grandparents are extremely important in the lives of my children.  They are lucky enough to see them frequently at family birthday parties, sleepovers, visits at our house, and holidays. This week my children really enjoyed reading two books about Tomie's childhood, Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs and Tom.  First, we read Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs which takes place when Tomie is around 4 years old.  The book reminisces upon his visits to his Nana's house.  The Nana that lived upstairs was his 94 year old great-grandmother that told him stories and took care of his sweet tooth at every visit! Tomie recalls the day he found out Nana Upstairs passed away and how difficult it was to see her empty bed upstairs.  My daughter said after reading this book, "Daddy that book was really good, it almost made me cry."

The second book we read that was about Tomie's childhood was Tom.  Tom is much lighter emotionally as Tomie remembers time spent with his grandfather.  There was a memory in the book when Tom gave little Tomie chicken feet from his butcher shop.  Tomie cleaned the feet, learned how to make the feet open and close by pulling on the tendon, and painted the claws red.  The chicken feet made it to school one day and landed Tomie in the principal's office. Hilarious!

This year, National Grandparent's Day was on September 12th.  My kids spent the weekend with their grandparents that live near us. They attended a local grandparent's day celebration, went to a Native American pow-wow, spent the night in their camper, and finished with a hike at the National Park. I am very thankful for the great-grandparents and grandparents of my children as they are positive role models and are experts in creating lasting memories. Maybe someday they will record their memories with illustrated stories of their own.

Be sure to visit my Tomie dePaola post from 2007.  In that post I focused on dePaola's folktale and legend books like The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush and Strega Nona.  We did reread Strega Nona this year and my daughter dressed up as Strega Nona. Take notice to the pasta pot with the blanket acting as the over flowing noodles!


1. The Official Tomie Website
2. The Official Tomie dePaola Blog
3. SCBWI's Tomie dePaola Award
4. Strega Nona the Musical - The Brad Simon Organization Inc.
5. Penguin StoryTime with Tomie dePaola - Video
6. 1985 Audio Interview with Tomie dePaola - Wired for Books
7. Tomie dePaola 2008 Video Interview - YouTube - Part 1, Part 2
8. The Art Lesson - YouTube
9. Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola - Henson Company - YouTube
10. Tomie dePaola Biography - Educational Book and Media Association
11. Activities about Ireland, read Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola - Infant Bibliophile


  1. We really need to read more of his books! We did post recently about reading Charlie Needs a Cloak for the first time (http://infantbibliophile.blogspot.com/2010/09/geography-this-week-ireland.html).

  2. Love his books! "Now One Foot, Now the Other" is one of our family's favorites! "Bill and Pete" & "Haircuts for the Woolseys" have also been hits in our house. :)

    Violet @ The Eager Readers

  3. Found your site through Blogmania and LOVE IT! Can't wait to come back and visit.


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