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Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola American children's illustrator and writer

American children's illustrator and writer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American children's illustrator and writer
Was Writer Children's writer
From United States of America
Type Literature
Gender male
Birth 15 September 1934, Meriden, USA
Death 30 March 2020, Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center, USA (aged 85 years)
Star sign VirgoVirgo
Pratt Institute
California College of the Arts
University of San Francisco
Notable Works
Strega Nona  
Children's Literature Legacy Award 2011
Regina Medal 1983
The details

Thomas Anthony "Tomie" dePaola /ˈtɒmi dəˈplə/; September 15, 1934 – March 30, 2020) was an American writer and illustrator who had created more than 260 children's books such as Strega Nona. He received the Children's Literature Legacy Award for his lifetime contribution to American children's literature in 2011.

Though not as well known as for illustrations of children's books, DePaola had also produced significant works of fine art, several of which in locations that are accessible for viewing. These works include the simple, yet very elegant, series of fourteen Stations of the Cross and a depiction of St. Benedict holding the "Rule for Monasteries" with a monastery in the background that reside in the Abbey Church of Our Lady of Glastonbury in Hingham, Massachusetts. He also painted a set of frescoes in the refectory (monks' dining room) of the same abbey, normally open only to the congregation after the abbey's conventual Sunday masses during cool or inclement weather. (This coffee hour takes place in the arbor across the parking lot from the church, the refectory thus remaining closed to visitors, when weather permits.)


DePaola was born in Meriden, Connecticut to a family of Irish and Italian heritage, the son of Joseph and Florence DePaola. He had one brother, Joseph (nicknamed Buddy), and two sisters, Judie and Maureen. His book The Baby Sister is about Maureen being born. DePaola was attracted to art at an early age and credited his family with encouraging his development as an artist and influencing the themes of his works.

After high school, dePaola studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

DePaola taught art at Newton College of the Sacred Heart outside Boston from 1962 to 1966, then moved to California, where he taught at San Francisco College for Women from 1967 to 1970. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1969 and a doctoral equivalency from Lone Mountain College in San Francisco. DePaola relocated to New England in the 1970s, teaching art at Chamberlayne Junior College in Boston from 1972 to 1973. From 1973 to 1976 he worked at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, as an associate professor, designer, and technical director in the speech and theater department and as writer and set and costume designer for the Children's Theatre Project. He taught art at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, from 1976 to 1978. DePaola retired from full-time teaching in 1978 to devote his time to writing and illustrating books. He provided illustrations for Maggie and the Monster Baby (Holiday House, 1987) by Elizabeth Winthrop.

The first published book that dePaola illustrated was a 1965 volume in the Coward-McCann series "Science is what and why": Sound, written by Lisa Miller. The first that he wrote and illustrated was The Wonderful Dragon of Timlin, published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1966.

As an actor, dePaola had appeared in several episodes of Barney & Friends as himself. He also starred as himself in the Jim Henson Company series Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola.

The Pratt Institute honored him with an honorary doctorate on May 18, 2009. The New Hampshire Institute of Art honored him with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts on May 20, 2018.

DePaola had resided in New London, New Hampshire, where he taught from 1973 to 1976.

DePaola died at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on March 30, 2020, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, according to his literary agent, Doug Whiteman. He was badly injured in a fall last week and died of complications following surgery.


In 2011 dePaola received the biennial Children's Literature Legacy Award from the U.S. children's librarians, which recognizes a living author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". The committee noted the wide range of his stories and his "innate understanding of childhood, a distinctive visual style, and a remarkable ability to adapt his voice to perfectly suit the story." It called Strega Nona, the wise Grandma Witch, "an enduring character who has charmed generations of children."

For his contribution as a children's illustrator, dePaola was the U.S. nominee in 1990 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition for creators of children's books.

For single works he has won the 1983 Golden Kite Award, Picture Book Illustration, from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for Giorgio's Village, which he also wrote. He won the 1994 Aesop Prize from the American Folklore Society for Christopher, the Holy Giant and the 2000 Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association for Night of Las Posadas.

DePaola has been a runner-up for the 1976 Caldecott Medal (Strega Nona), the 1982 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol), the 1987 Golden Kite Award (What the Mailman Brought), and the 2000 Newbery Medal (26 Fairmount Avenue). The Caldecott and Newbery Medals are the premier annual American Library Association awards for picture book illustration and children's book writing respectively.

He won the 2000 Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award from the Educational Paperback Association for his cumulative "significant contribution to the educational paperback business".


This list omits most nonfiction.

Fine Art

  • Station of the Cross (Set of 14) in Abbey Church of Our Lady of Glastonbury, Hingham, Massachusetts
  • Depiction of St. Benedict in Abbey Church of Our Lady of Glastonbury, Hingham, Massachusetts
  • Frescoes in Refectory of Glastonbury Abbey, Hingham, Massachusetts
  • Dominican Retreat and Conference Center Chapel Mural, Niskayuna, New York
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 31 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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