Saturday, February 28, 2009

What a Scroll-abulous Class!

Mrs. Mendez and Mrs. Czarnik's second grade class at John F. Kennedy Elementary in Brewster, New York sent a scroll of letters and photographs. Each photograph featured a student or the teachers reading a "26 Fairmount Avenue" book.

Class: You have had an interesting life.
Tomie: Oh, yes.

Class: Will there be a book 8?
Tomie: I'm working on it right now. It will be available later this year. It's called FOR THE DURATION.

The Questions Get More Personal!

Myles from Libertyville, Illinois: I am a huge fan of 26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE. How do you like to serve popcorn? I like my popcorn lightly buttered.

Tomie: I like my popcorn with butter and salt, and don't hold back on the butter and salt!

Gifts From Ithaca, Michigan

Mrs. Meier and her kindergarten class at South Elementary sent me gifts.

"A 'warrior doll' to help us remember to do Random Acts of Kindness... based on THE LEGEND OF THE BLUEBONNET.

"An 'old-fashioned' heart cookie... based on AN EARLY AMERICAN CHRISTMAS."

The class also sent a candle (in the photo it's upside down because the photographer didn't know what it was) and a heart rock (found by Mrs. Meier and her sons on a Lake Superior beach). Click on the photo to get a close-up look.

Thanks, Mrs. M and her sons, and her K class!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Mt. Kisco Disco

Many years ago, I had a speaking engagement in Mt. Kisco, New York. My assistant and I stayed at a motel in Mt. Kisco. The lounge featured a dance floor with a mirror ball. The dance floor was packed with groovin' Mt. Kisco-ites each night we were there. We dubbed it the Mt. Kisco Disco. When I read second grade teacher Mrs. Corsaro's letter, I wondered, "Did SHE ever dance at the Mt. Kisco Disco?"

Many of her students at Mt. Kisco Elementary asked similar questions.

Q: Do you have a pet mouse?
A: No

Q: Is Strega Nona your grandmother?
A: No

Q: Did your grandmother tell you Strega Nona stories?
A: No. I created the character Strega Nona.

Q: Do you like your books?
A: No, I love them. L-o-v-e LOVE them. LOVE THEM!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tubs Are for Books!

Kendall in Lynnwood, Washington likes the "26 Fairmount Avenue" chapter books.

Kendall: You are the best author I know because whenever I read your chapter books it makes me feel like I'm you. My classroom has a huge book tub of your books. That tub is the most popular book tub in the classroom. When I read the books about World War II I felt sad and scared along with you.

Tomie: Thank you, Kendall, for your comments. The eighth chapter book, FOR THE DURATION, will be published in the fall. I'm working on the illustrations right now!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dreaming of Master Pieces in Sandusky, Ohio

I enjoyed reading the letters from two boys in Mrs. Pitcher's class at Ontario Elementary.

Josiah: I love the book about the boy who lives on 26 Fairmount Avenue. I dream about the book every week.

Zachary: I have read lots of your books and hope to read more of your master pieces!!

Tomie: I dream about reading more of your masterpiece letters.

Queens Students Are Talking About Me!

Ms. Vought's class at P.S. 62 is curious.

Q: Is Buddy your real brother and how old is he?
A: Buddy is my brother. He died many years ago.

Q: Did you and Nana Upstairs really do #2 and make a mess?
A: Yes

Q: Did you spend time with Nana Downstairs also?
A: Yes

Q: Did your Nana Upstairs pass away?
A: You should read NANA UPSTAIRS & NANA DOWNSTAIRS to learn the answer.

Fantastic, Awesome, Inspirational and RIVETING Remarks!

Mrs. Moore's library students from Mrs. Hagedorn's class at Price School in Yuma, Arizona wanted to share their thoughts.

Keyana: Your work is riveting.

Harold: Your books are inspirational.

Kaelean: Your books are awesome!

Emily K: Your art is fantastic!

Tomie: I'm blushing, but don't stop with your comments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So Many Questions. So Little Time.

Mrs. Landsman and her first and second grade library students at Underhill Elementary in Hooksett, New Hampshire asked a lot of questions. Here are answers to some of them.

Q: Do you use a computer to write your books or draw your pictures?
A: No. I write my stories longhand, and I create the illustrations on paper.

Q: What is your favorite season?
A: Autumn

Q: Will you ever write a book for grown-ups?

Q: Do you go to the library a lot?
A: Not as often as I once did.

Q: Do you believe in Santa Claus?
A: I'm not saying.

Monday, February 23, 2009

They're Talking About Me in Buffalo!

Ms. Funk's second graders at Hoover Elementary asked some interesting questions.

Q: What is your favorite Italian food?
A: Spaghetti with garlic and oil

Q: If you could live anywhere besides the U.S., where would you live?
A: Provence, France

Q: Which is your favorite story character?
A: Strega Nona

Q: What is your favorite work of art?
A: "Velvet Painting of Dogs Playing a Poker Game." Just kidding. The REAL answer is any one of the "Annunciation" paintings by Fra Angelico.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Michael and His Very Thoughtful Comments and Question

Tomie received a letter from 11-year-old Michael in Chalfont, Pennsylvania.

"I read each of your books, that I have, about three times each. If I am ever looking for something to do, reading your books is one of my top choices. Even though I am not a big fan of reading, I read your books right through because they are so well written. Your books have inspired me to read more, too.

"If I were to meet you in person I would have a few questions for you: Why do you spell your last name, dePaola, with a lower cased 'D'? Is that how your ancestors spelled it? My mom's last name was changed when her grandfather (who worked on the building of the Empire State Building) came to America through Ellis Island. They took out an apostrophe" in her family's last name.

Tomie: When I was growing up, my last name was spelled "De Paola."

But, I learned, as I got older, that the spelling of my last name was CHANGED TO "De Paola" when my ancestors arrived in America. The last name was ORIGINALLY SPELLED "dePaola" in Italy.

So, I changed the way I spelled my last name to the original spelling when I got older.

It was common for the spelling of names to be changed when immigrants arrived in America.

Excellent question, Michael.

Cristina's Testimonial

Tomie received a letter from 11-year-old Cristina in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

"I read your book 26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE. The reason for writing this letter to you is because I wanted to tell you how your book changed my life.

"Before I read your book I was 4 years old when I moved to a new town. It was very scary for me because I didn't have any friends. I also didn't know my way around. I felt very lonely. This time in my life was a very unhappy time. It took a while to get used to things and I thought that I was the only person who was upset.

"This book changed my life. You have taught me that it's ok to move. It would be fun to move again because you're living in a different house. You also helped me through a rough time because you were excited to move. When I read your book I thought about my new house getting built. You also really inspired me by not getting upset if I know that I have to move again. In 26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE, you showed me how other people can be helpful during difficult times of moving into a new home, but you can get through it."

Thanks for writing, Cristina!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No Stone Left Unturned

Audrey Brundirks' class at Huron Elementary in Clinton Township, Michigan wrote letters. A unique question was asked in one of the letters.

Noah: My favorite book is THE LEGEND OF THE INDIAN PAINTBRUSH because I like to paint. What is your favorite book? What is your least favorite book?

Tomie: No one, that I can remember, has ever asked which is my LEAST favorite book of my own. I have two: SOUND SCIENCE and LIGHT AND SIGHT. The former was published in 1968 and the latter was published in 1969. The stories were written by Melvin L. Alexenberg. Both featured characters called Gloops. Mr. Alexenberg created the Gloops and told me how they should look. So, I didn't have much flexibility when I illustrated these stories, and that's why they're my LEAST favorite books of my own.

Better Than a Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, or Milli Vanilli Concert!

No lip-synching! No body double! No beard! This is the REAL Tomie dePaola in 1999 in front of 500 children and adults at the Dana Center on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Tomie interacts with the audience, talks about childhood experiences, reads TOM and STREGA NONA, gives an art lesson, shows how he draws "Strega Nona," gives instructions on how to do a GENUINE Italian kiss... all in 65 minutes.

"Tomie Live in Concert" is available in VHS videotape and DVD from Morgan Hill Bookstore in New London, New Hampshire. 603-526-5850

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tomie Meets the Dragon Lady

Patty Vaillancourt came to the studio today to help us learn how to use Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Speech Recognition Software. She was very patient and a good teacher.

After surgeries on his shoulder and his hand/wrist, and after years of writing and illustrating stories, and after years of autographing thousands of books, I thought it was time to try a product that might give Tomie's hand a rest.

We spent the morning working with Patty, and we're hopeful that Dragon Naturally Speaking will be a help.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Christmas Seems to End Earlier and Earlier Each Year

Today, Tomie, Stephanie, Barbara and I took down the Christmas trees, wreathes and kissing balls. It's too bad that Christmas has to come to an end.

Monday, February 16, 2009

They're Talking About Me in Aurora, Colorado!

Mrs. Sniegowski's third grade reading class at Buffalo Trail Elementary wrote: "Each day, we try to write as vividly as you. We are working right now on adding exciting verbs and juicy details to make exciting, descriptive sentences. We were wondering, how did you get inspired to write? How do you get over writer's block? Also, do you have any advice for us as writers?"

Tomie: I, for one, want to read those sentences with exciting verbs and juicy details!

Tomie: I find inspiration in many different places and in many different ways. Last year, I had writer's block for several months. I kept talking with people about some ideas for stories, and eventually I started writing again. But, it was scary. I even asked young writer and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka at my 74th birthday dinner if he would take time out of his creative day to come to my studio to help me unblock. I needed everybody's help!

Tomie: My advice for writers? Read, read, read.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

They're Talking About Me in Providence, Rhode Island!

Jenny is in Mrs. Celio's fifth grade class at Laurel Hill Avenue School.

Jenny: I have just finished reading your story 26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE. It is a very charming read, funny and realistic. One of the best books yet.
Tomie: Would you tell Oprah?

Jenny: In the book KNOCK, KNOCK! I don't get your Knock-Knock joke Sam and Janet - if you don't mind explaining.
Tomie: I play with the words "Sam and Janet" and the song "Some Enchanted Evening." You might need to be a little older to understand.

Jenny: About how many times do you make a drawing until you are completely satisfied with it?
Tomie: Each drawing is different. Sometimes I'm satisfied immediately with it. But, sometimes I'll have to work on a drawing for a long time before it's right. I'll even rip up the drawing and start over if necessary.

Jenny: How long does it usually take for a story or picture to come out right?
Tomie: Each story is different. Some stories will take only a few weeks, and some will take months or years to complete.

Jenny: When you were in high school did you think you would become a writer and illustrator?
Tomie: I wanted to be an artist and draw pictures and write stories for books when I was only four years old. I went to an art school after I graduated from high school to learn children's book illustration. But, I was always good at writing, and an editor once suggested to me that I try to write a story to illustrate.

Cousin Maureen and Tomie

Educator and Cousin Maureen Malavase came to the autographing at Barnes & Noble in Manchester, New Hampshire, yesterday. (Tomie's Blog Blogger would be in trouble if he didn't post this photo.)

They Took Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Left to Right:
Heidi O'Neill (Collections Manager/Registrar), Tomie, Nick Clark (Founding Director, Chief Curator), Sherry Litwack (Tomie's artwork representative)

Representatives of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art fanned out across America on Friday, February 13, to collect Tomie's artwork for their exhibition "Drawings From the Heart: Tomie dePaola Turns 75" (July 3, 2009 - November 1, 2009). Heidi and Nick were chosen to visit Tomie's studio.

Emma and Tomie

First Grader Emma and her father attended the autographing at Barnes & Noble in Manchester, New Hampshire on Valentine's Day. She presented Tomie with a drawing of Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, Bill, Pete, Strega Nona, Big Anthony, Tom, Buddy, Tomie, Kat and hearts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Fashion

Sherry Litwack visited the studio yesterday, and wore a wonderful Valentine's Day-themed sweater, and Tomie wanted the world to see it. So, what is she wearing TODAY? (Click on the photo to get a close-up look at the sweater... and Sherry.)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spend Valentine's Day with Tomie

Saturday, February 14, 2009
Book Signing at
2:00 - 3:30 p.m.
1741 South Willow Street
Manchester, NH 03103



From the DVD back cover:
"SCBWI MASTER CLASS allows you to take a peek into the wit, wonder and wisdom that is Tomie's creative process. Hosted by SCBWI Executive Director and best-selling children's book author Lin Oliver, each SCBWI MASTER CLASS offers a one-of-a-kind conversation with the most important writers and illustrators working in children's literature today. Filled with practical information and inspiring insight, SCBWI MASTER CLASS is an essential tool for every author or illustrator whether aspiring or professional."

Educators, and fans of Tomie's work, will also find this DVD fascinating.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tomie Look-alike

Here is Cecilia Yung, art director for the Penguin Young Readers Group imprints of G. P. Putnam's Sons and Philomel Books, at the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New York City on February 1. Tomie couldn't attend the conference because he was recovering from pneumonia. He asked Cecilia, in his absence, to choose the winner of his illustration award. Here she is announcing the award, and doing her best impression of Tomie by wearing one of his hats.

Hallelujah, Henrietta!

Tomie finished the last of the illustrations for STREGA NONA'S HARVEST yesterday. This artwork is now waiting to be picked up by Federal Express for delivery tomorrow at the publisher in New York City. The artwork is a tad bit behind in being completed with no thanks to a book tour and illness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Gnu News

Here are Tomie and Bronte applying gesso to the gnu. Oh wait, that's not Tomie! Here are Stephanie, and her assistant Bronte, applying gesso to the gnu. Stephanie is better known as Tomie's house cleaner, and Bronte is better known as man's best friend, but today they are artist's assistants.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tomie, the Crooner

As Jarrett Krosoczka and I were discussing his next video featuring authors and illustrators, singing and dancing were mentioned. (What does he have in mind? Has he already started filming? When can we expect a new video? I hope I'm not starting a rumor.)

During our exchange, I remembered Tomie's singing debut on a CD. The CD is called "Stranger Than Fiction," and Tomie sings "On the Good Ship Lollipop." You can buy Tomie's single on iTunes. Search "Stranger Than Fiction."

Others featured on the CD include Maya Angelou, Dave Barry, Ken Follett, Matt Groening, Carl Hiassen, Stephen King, Norman Mailer, Jessica Mitford and Amy Tan.

Gnu Progress

I thought I'd show you Tomie's progress painting the gnu.

There hasn't been any. Watch for more updates! (I know he's thinking about the gnu, and he knows what he's going to do.)

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing a bunch of painted African wildebeests in our New England town this summer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good Luck, Tomie!

A gnu was just delivered. Yikes! Tomie needs to paint it for a fundraiser for a group in New London, New Hampshire: The Gnus of Gnu London. Tomie's gnu has been sponsored by Morgan Hill Bookstore. It will be on display outside the bookstore this summer.

NOW, They're Talking About Me in Holland Patent, New York!

OK, I have time to take a few questions. Let's start with Mrs. Linda Davis and her class at Holland Patent Elementary.

Q: Are you a billionaire?
A: In this economy?! No, I'm not a billionaire. I imagine that Mrs. Davis and the principal are billionaires.

Q: How old are you?
A: I'm 74 years old. If you look at the bottom of the blog page, you'll see the number of days until my next birthday. There are still a lot of shopping days left until my birthday!

Q: Do you have any children?
A: No

Q: How are you?
A: I'm better. I had pneumonia, and am recovering from it. I didn't feel very well for several weeks.

I Hear a Song in the Air

THE SONG OF FRANCIS goes on sale today!

From the front flap:
"Francis is so full of God's love that he wants to sing His praises. His glorious singing inspires birds of every color, and even the sun and moon, to join him in joyful celebration. Tomie dePaola's simple text and vibrant illustrations bring the spirit of Francis to life for even the youngest children. And he reminds us how sweet it is to rejoice and give thanks for life and love."

The art is collage using Prismacolor-marker-painted full-page Avery labels placed on watercolor-painted backgrounds done on 100% rag bristol paper. That's right, Avery labels!

An explosion of color. Beautiful!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My ABCs of Tomie dePaola

A is for author and artist.

B is for beauty. Tomie sees beauty all around him, and shares it with his readers through his illustrations.

C is for Christmas, his favorite holiday and the subject of many of his books. Some of the most recent are: CHRISTMAS REMEMBERED, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO SANTA'S FOR DINNER, and MY FIRST CHRISTMAS.

D is for dePaola - da-POW-la, and not dee-pay-O-la - and for dogs. He has an Airedale terrier whose name is Bronte.

E is for energy! He was once described as a combination of Elton John and the Energizer Bunny.

F is for Fairmount Avenue. 26 Fairmount Avenue was the address of the dePaola family home, and the name of his first autobiographical chapter book: 26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE.

G is for genius, and gifted - two words used when discussing Tomie and his work.

H is for hearts. The heart is a symbol for Tomie.

I is for illustrator. THE DETROIT NEWS wrote: "Generally, we don't think of those who create books for children - authors or illustrators - as superstars. Yet, certain names - Sendak, Carle, dePaola, among others - have acquired the kind of sparkle that goes with star status. A new book by any one of the stellar few stands as a real publishing event."

J is for joy-filled. Tomie's books often make us laugh, and feel better about ourselves.

K is for kid-at-heart. Tomie's books are in touch with young children.

L is for love. Strega Nona says that love is the magic ingredient.

M is for medals, and awards, and honors. Tomie and his work have won many including the Caldecott Honor and the Newbery Honor, the Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution, the Regina Medal from the Catholic Library Association, and others.

N is for Nana: Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, Nana Fall-River.

O is for one-of-a-kind. Tomie is one-of-a-kind!

P is for popcorn, his favorite food.

Q is for quite amazing. Did you know that Tomie can act, and sing and tap dance?

R is for really popular. Tomie receives tens of thousands of letters from fans each year.

S is for Strega Nona. Of course!

T is for Tomie, and Tommy.

U is for understanding. Tomie understands the hearts and minds of his readers.

V is for variety. Tomie has written fiction, non-fiction, autobiography, poetry, legend, etc.

W is for whitebird, another personal symbol.

X is for 'xciting. Tomie has exciting projects planned for the future, including a Mother's Day book about his mother Flossie.

Y is for young illustrators. Tomie likes the work of young writers and illustrators Jarrett Krosoczka, David Ezra Stein, Jesse Joshua Watson, and many others.

Z is for the zillion things I've forgotten to mention.

Created by Val Hornburg, author of ON THE WING OF A WHITEBIRD: A TOMIE DEPAOLA RESOURCE BOOK. (I, Bob, will admit to editing Val's list and adding a Y entry since Val forgot an entry for Y.)

Secret #2 Revealed

Several days ago, Tomie received a sweet letter from his ex-wife, Monique. Tomie and Monique had not been in touch for nearly 50 years. Monique was from Paris. She now lives on an island off of the coast of France. Her niece had discovered an address for Tomie on

Pop Quiz #2

Oh dear, I imagine you are now wishing you hadn't wasted last evening watching "American Idol" instead of reading and studying Tomie dePaola's books.

Pencil and paper, ready?

1. When Strega Nona went on a vacation, where did she go?
2. When Strega Nona went to the seashore on a vacation, what presents did she send to Bambolona and Big Anthony?
3. In NOW ONE FOOT, NOW THE OTHER, what was Bobby's grandfather's name?
4. When Bob and Bobby made a tower with the old wooden blocks, what was the last block they put on top of the tower?
5. In COOKIE'S WEEK, what is the name of the cat who makes a mess each day of the week?
6. In Sarah Josepha Hale's poem about Mary, what was the animal that followed Mary to school?
7. Who is Miss Leah?
8. In ON MY WAY, there was a "Tiny Tot Wedding." Who was the bride?
9. Is the Mysterious Giant of Barletta a real person or a statue?
10. In TONY'S BREAD, what did Tony do as a job?
11. In TONY' BREAD, who was Tony's daughter?
12. What was the boy called in THE LEGEND OF THE INDIAN PAINTBRUSH before he was called "He-Who-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth?"
13. What character did Tommy play in "Peter Rabbit" in the books STAGESTRUCK and HERE WE ALL ARE?

1. The seashore
2. Bubble bath and candy
3. Bob
4. The elephant block
5. Cookie
6. A lamb
7. Tomie's dancing school teacher
8. Tomie
9. A statue
10. He was a baker.
11. Serafina
12. Little Gopher
13. Mopsy, a bunny rabbit

Were you as smart as Jennette Stark, retired librarian, retired administrator, Canadian Fruitcake Challenge (2008) runner-up, who correctly answered all of the questions?