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More than 250 books feature the name Tomie dePaola as the illustrator, writer or both. He has been published for more than 40 years and has sold more than 15 million books worldwide. He was also the United States nominee in 1990 for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in illustration. The American Library Association has honored him with a Caldecott Honor, a Newbery Honor and the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." His latest work is a new edition of "Strega Nona" (Nancy Paulsen Books).

Previous National Book Festival Appearances

The Scoop

What sparked your imagination for your Strega Nona books?

The original spark for the first Strega Nona book was a eureka moment that popped up like a proverbial light bulb. Then, all I had to do was stay true to my Italian heritage.

What authors and artists have inspired you? Are you often inspired by your everyday surroundings or dreams?

There are so many authors and artists that I can’t list them all. I am often inspired by my dreams, everyday events and my memory.

What tips or advice can you share with young students to encourage their creative talents?

I tell young students if they ask for advice what my artist cousins told me when I was very young. I told my cousins that I wanted to be an artist and they told me, “Practice, practice, practice, and never copy.”

Can you suggest a fun writing or drawing topic to get them started?

A fun drawing topic would be to draw yourself doing all kinds of things that you like to do.

How do you decide on themes for your books?

I don’t think I decide on themes for my books. I just try to think of good stories.

How important is research in the development of your books? Can you explain the process as well?

Research is important to me not only to get facts right but to know the way things really look. For this I’ll go to encyclopedias and the internet to check facts. I look through many art books to get inspired.

What is your list of favorite children or teen books?

Some of my favorite books growing up were:

  • HITTY, HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS, by Rachel Field
  • HOMER PRICE, by Robert McCloskey
  • LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott
  • JOHNNY TREMAIN, by Esther Forbes
  • Hans Christian Andersen tales
  • ALICE IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll
  • THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, by Kenneth Grahame …to name just a few.

If you were not writing and drawing, or creating children’s books, what do you think you would be doing?

I think I’d like to be a cook. When I was younger, I might have chosen acting and dancing.

What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?

One word of advice: Read to your child every night and let her or him pick out the book.

Can you tell us about any new books that you will be working on during the coming year?

THE BIRDS OF BETHLEHEM, and the final book in the “26 Fairmount Avenue” series.

Do you have a website where young people can learn more about you and your work?

www.tomie.com

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