Discover the 12 Best Tomie DePaola Children’s Books

Tomie DePaola was a prolific and beloved author and illustrator of children’s books who passed away in 2020. He leaves behind a rich legacy of books that have enchanted readers of all ages with their combination of warmth, humor, and timeless themes. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the life and work of Tomie DePaola, and highlight some of his most beloved books for young children, middle grade readers, and even adults.

Discover the 12 Best Tomie DePaola Children’s Books

The Life and Legacy of Tomie DePaola

Tomie DePaola was a renowned author and illustrator of children’s books, known for his colorful and imaginative stories that captured the hearts of readers young and old. Born in Meriden, Connecticut in 1934, DePaola grew up in a large, Italian-American family that instilled in him a deep appreciation for tradition, family, and creativity.

From an early age, DePaola showed a talent for art, which was encouraged by his mother. He attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he honed his skills in fine art and illustration. It was there that he discovered his love for storytelling and began to develop his unique style.

Early Life and Education

DePaola’s childhood experiences and family traditions often served as a source of inspiration for his books. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, he said, “I’m really writing about my family and the life I knew.” It was his way of preserving the memories and values that were important to him, and sharing them with others.

After college, DePaola moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as an art director for a publishing company. It wasn’t until he moved back to the East Coast and began teaching art that he started writing his own stories. His first book, “The Wonderful Dragon of Timlin,” was published in 1966, and marked the beginning of a prolific career in children’s literature.

A Prolific Career in Children’s Literature

The Clown of God

DePaola’s books were beloved for their colorful illustrations, engaging characters, and heartwarming stories. Some of his most popular works were part of the Strega Nona series, which featured the eponymous “Grandma Witch” and her mischievous helper, Big Anthony. Other notable works include “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush,” “Oliver Button Is a Sissy,” and “The Art Lesson.”

In addition to his own books, DePaola also illustrated many works by other authors, including “26 Fairmount Avenue” by his own sister, Beverly DePaola, and “The Clown of God” by Tomie’s close friend, Leo Lionni. He also wrote and illustrated books based on traditional folktales, as well as books about holidays and other cultural traditions.

Awards and Recognitions

Throughout his career, DePaola received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to children’s literature. These include the Caldecott Honor, the Newbery Honor, the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Society of Illustrators.

DePaola’s legacy continues to inspire and delight readers of all ages. His books are cherished for their timeless themes of love, family, and tradition, and for the joy and wonder they bring to children’s lives.

Top Tomie DePaola Books for Young Children

Tomie DePaola is a beloved author and illustrator of children’s books. His books are known for their warm, engaging characters, simple yet expressive illustrations, and timeless messages about love, family, and community. Here are some of his most popular works for young children:

Strega Nona Series

Strega Nona

The Strega Nona series is a delightful collection of stories that follows the titular character, a wise and kind-hearted Italian grandma witch, and her bumbling but lovable assistant, Big Anthony. Together, they embark on many hilarious and heartwarming adventures. Some of the most popular books in the series include “Strega Nona,” “Strega Nona Her Story,” and “Big Anthony and the Magic Ring.

In “Strega Nona,” readers are introduced to the charming and quirky world of Strega Nona and her magical pasta pot. When Big Anthony decides to use the pot without permission, chaos ensues. “Strega Nona Her Story” is a prequel to the first book and tells the story of how Strega Nona became a witch. “Big Anthony and the Magic Ring” is a fun adventure that follows Big Anthony as he tries to use a magic ring to impress Strega Nona.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet

The Legend of the Bluebonnet

The Legend of the Bluebonnet” is a beautiful retelling of a traditional Native American folktale. The story follows a young girl named She-Who-Is-Alone who sacrifices her most prized possession to save her tribe from a devastating drought. The book’s stunning illustrations and lyrical prose make it a favorite among young readers and adults alike.

DePaola’s retelling of this folktale is both respectful and engaging. He captures the essence of the original story while also adding his own unique style and voice to the narrative. The result is a book that is both timeless and relevant.

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush” is another retelling of a Native American folktale. This book tells the story of Little Gopher, a boy who dreams of becoming a painter. With the help of a wise spirit guide, he discovers his true calling as an artist and the importance of following one’s dreams.

The illustrations in this book are particularly stunning. DePaola’s use of color and texture bring the story to life in a way that is both beautiful and engaging. This book is a wonderful reminder of the power of creativity and imagination.

The Art Lesson

The Art Lesson (Paperstar Book)

The Art Lesson” is a charming and inspiring book that is based on DePaola’s own experiences as a young artist. The story follows young Tommy, who dreams of becoming an artist like his hero, Vincent van Gogh. With the help of his enthusiastic art teacher, Tommy learns to trust his own creative instincts and find his own unique voice.

This book is a wonderful reminder of the importance of following one’s dreams and pursuing one’s passions. DePaola’s illustrations are both whimsical and expressive, perfectly capturing the spirit of the story.

Tomie DePaola’s books for young children are timeless classics that are sure to delight readers of all ages. Whether you’re reading about the magical world of Strega Nona or discovering the beauty of Native American folklore, DePaola’s books are sure to inspire and enchant.

Engaging Tomie DePaola Books for Middle Grade Readers

Tomie DePaola is a beloved author and illustrator known for his heartwarming stories and charming illustrations. His books for middle grade readers are perfect for kids who are looking for longer, more complex stories but still appreciate the warmth and humor that characterize his work. Here are some of his most popular books for this age group:

26 Fairmount Avenue Series

26 Fairmount Avenue

This series of autobiographical novels follows Tomie’s own childhood experiences growing up in Connecticut during the 1930s and 40s. From his love of drawing and storytelling to his struggles with illness and family tensions, these books offer a rich and engaging portrait of a young artist coming of age.

Readers will be transported to a different time and place as they follow Tomie’s journey through childhood. They will experience the joys and challenges he faces as he navigates his family’s move to a new home, his first day of school, and his dreams of becoming an artist. Through it all, Tomie’s warmth and humor shine through, making these books a delight to read.

You can find this book here.

The Mysterious Giant of Barletta

The Mysterious Giant of Barletta

In this historical fiction book set in 16th-century Italy, a young boy named Paolo must overcome his fear of the giant statue that looms over his town in order to save his family from financial ruin. Filled with action, adventure, and memorable characters, this book is a great choice for kids who love stories with a historical twist.

Readers will be transported to the bustling streets of Barletta as they follow Paolo on his quest to save his family. They will meet colorful characters along the way, including a brave knight and a mischievous monkey. They will also learn about the history and culture of Italy during this time period, making this book both entertaining and educational.

You can find this book here.

The Quicksand Book

Tomie dePaola's The Quicksand Book

This informational book offers fascinating and detailed explanations of how quicksand works, and what to do if you ever find yourself in it. Filled with vivid illustrations and engaging text, this book is sure to captivate curious readers of all ages.

Readers will be amazed by the science behind quicksand as they learn about the properties of sand, water, and air that make it so dangerous. They will also discover the best ways to escape if they ever find themselves stuck in it. With its engaging text and stunning illustrations, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in science and nature.

You can find this book here.

The Popcorn Book

Tomie dePaola's The Popcorn Book (40th Anniversary Edition)

A mouth-watering celebration of one of America’s favorite snacks, this book tells the story of how popcorn is grown, harvested, and turned into a delicious treat. With fun facts, recipes, and tips for popping your own popcorn at home, this book is a must-read for popcorn lovers of all ages.

Readers will be hungry for more as they learn about the history of popcorn and how it became a favorite snack for people all over the world. They will also discover the best ways to pop popcorn at home, including tips for seasoning and serving it. With its fun facts and delicious recipes, this book is sure to be a hit with popcorn lovers everywhere.

You can find this book here.

Tomie DePaola Books for Adults

While DePaola is best known for his work in children’s literature, he also wrote books that are perfect for adult readers who appreciate his warmth, humor, and insight into the human experience. Here are some of his most popular books for this age group:

On My Way: A 48-Page Memoir

On My Way (26 Fairmount Avenue)

In this memoir, DePaola reflects on his childhood, his artistic career, and his thoughts on the creative process and the importance of storytelling. With charming illustrations and heartfelt prose, this book is a testament to DePaola’s enduring legacy as a beloved author and illustrator.

You can find this book here.

Christmas Remembered

Christmas Remembered

In this collection of personal essays and reminiscences, DePaola shares his memories and traditions surrounding the holiday season. From his childhood Christmases in Connecticut to his travels around the world, this book offers a heartwarming and nostalgic look at the joys of the holiday season.

You can find this book here.

The Magical World of Strega Nona: A Treasury

The Magical World of Strega Nona: a Treasury

This beautiful collection of stories and illustrations celebrates the beloved Strega Nona character and her world of magic and wonder. Featuring some of DePaola’s best-loved stories and characters, this book is a must-have for fans of all ages.

You can find this book here.


In conclusion, Tomie DePaola’s books have touched the hearts and minds of millions of readers around the world. Whether you’re a young child just discovering the joys of reading, a middle grade reader looking for adventure and inspiration, or an adult looking for warmth and comfort in uncertain times, there’s sure to be a Tomie DePaola book that will capture your imagination and enrich your life.


Who is Tomie Depaola?

Tomie Depaola was an American author and illustrator responsible for creating over 260 children’s books. He was awarded the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in 2011 for his dedication to children’s fiction.

Where is Tomie Depaola from?

Depaola was born in Connecticut in 1934 and died in New Hampshire in 2020.

What is Tomie Depaola’s real name?

He was born Thomas Anthony Depaola and was nicknamed “Tomie” for short.

What does Tomie Depaola write?

He wrote children’s books such as Strega Nona, Oliver Button is a Sissy, The Art Lesson, and Big Anthony, His Story.

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