Happy Birthday, Tomie dePaola!

The Friends of the Library and Library staff had a fun program today, celebrating the life and work of Tomie dePaola.  We talked about his art, and read two books–Marianna May and Nursey and Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato.  Following that, the kids drew some pictures (we’ll have an artwork display soon!) and had some birthday cake!

In honor of the occasion, here are a few of our favorite books by Tomie:

The Art Lesson
Tommy starts school, and can’t wait for the day when the art teacher comes. But there are a couple of hitches: the paints at school are cracked and powdery, and the art teacher only lets the children have one piece of paper, on which to “copy” her drawings. Tommy, who has been told by his aunts that real artists never copy, has a crisis. But his other teachers show themselves to be far more understanding than readers could have predicted, and all ends well.

The Knight and the Dragon
What happens when a sheepish knight and a not-so-fierce dragon fight for the very first time? Well, it’s no ordinary battle since the knight has to go to the castle library to learn about dragon-fighting and the dragon must dig through his ancestor’s things to find out how to fight a knight! Spontaneity of line and feeling are backed by zesty colors and a jovial, tongue-in-cheek tone to which children can  relate.

The simple, plain text tells of the close relationship between Tommy and his namesake grandfather, Tom. They read the comics together, act out poems and make up stories, and, in the final vignette, play practical jokes with discarded chicken parts (Tom is a butcher, by trade). There is a lively yet homey look to the characters and their surroundings. Readers are given a fond glimpse of a grandfather who is a bit of a character and who, most importantly, loves his grandson.

Strega Nona series
In the first book, Strega Nona leaves Big Anthony alone with her magic pasta pot, and chaos ensues as he decides to show the townspeople how it works. Other titles include Strega Nona’s “biography” in Strega Nona, Her Story, Strega Nona meeting her match in Strega Amelia, Strega Nona’s Harvest,  and Strega Nona and dealing with other problems caused by her family and friends in Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons and Big Anthony and the Magic Ring.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet
This legend based on Comanche lore, tells the story of how the bluebonnet, the state flower of Texas, came to be.  It starts with a little girl and a doll, and ends with beautiful flowers everywhere.  All of the “Legend” books are fun to read and look at, you could also try The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, The Legend of the Persian Carpet, and The Legend of the Snow Maiden.

26 Fairmount Avenue
Kicking off a series by the same name, dePaola’s effervescent chapter book recounts some memorable moments from the author’s early years, surrounded by loving family members and friends. Fans will recognize a few of the cast members from the author’s various autobiographical picture books. This story’s primary focus is the snafu-plagued construction and landscaping of the dePaola family’s “first and only house,” in Meriden, Connecticut. DePaola successfully evokes the voice of a precocious, inquisitive five-year-old everyone would want to befriend. Charming black-and-white illustrations animate the scenes and add a period flare. Readers will also appreciate a glimpse of the artist’s early debut as he draws life-size images of his family on the plasterboard walls in his new house. DePaola seems as at home in this format as he did when he first crossed the threshold of 26 Fairmount Avenue, an address readers will eagerly revisit in the rest of this wonderful series.

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We have over a hundred titles written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. Come by the library and see if we have some of your favorites!



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