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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets’ children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids’ books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Tomie dePaola: We will miss him — but what a legacy!

April 6, 2020

The world lost an incredible talent with the death of Tomie dePaola. 

Tomie dePaola was a rock star in the field of children’s literature. He wrote or illustrated more than 270 books, and introduced the world's children to the kindly "grandma witch" Strega Nona. DePaola was a talented and kind man who provided magic, laughter, and so much more to generations of children and their families. His incredible wealth of insight and respect for his young readers will continue to delight, engage, inform, and amuse generations to come. 

He brought to life in words and images beloved characters (think Strega Nona), he illustrated famous nursery rhymes (Mother Goose), and sometimes he provided insight into himself as a child (26 Fairmont Avenue). Other times, dePaola introduced religious themes (Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland and The Clown of God). So often there was gentle humor (Big Anthony). And sometimes no words were needed at all (Pancakes for Breakfast). He created so many books and explored so many themes — that there’s just too little time and space to note them all here.

I last saw Tomie dePaola when his Clown of God was featured in an exhibition at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. There, he spoke with moderator Jewell Stoddard, a renowned children’s literature expert and bookstore owner in her own right, and longtime friend of Tomie. Juggling the Middle Ages was fascinating and made all the more so by the inclusion of children’s literature and the chance to see original art from picture books.

You’ll be missed, Tomie dePaola, but you will live on through an incredible body of work.

Reading Rockets was lucky enough to interview Tomie dePaola twice, and his interviews make us smile! You can watch the video interviews with dePaola, and browse a selected list of some our favorite dePaola books

Collection of book covers by Tomie dePaola


My kids grew up with Tomie dePaola! My kids are now 30, 27 and 24 and still love to reminisce about BIg Anthony! Strega Nona and Big Anthony were like family! Maria, thank you so much for this tribute to Tomie!

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"A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom" —

Robert Frost